ZWE Nxumalo is a writer working on his first novel.
ZWE Nxumalo is a writer working on his first novel.

SA’s youth are languishing in a state of joblessness and discarded onto a lonely island of poverty

By Zwe Nxumalo Time of article published Jun 2, 2021

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By dint of brute force a door squeaked open and a paper violently awakened the sleeping dust from the stone floor of her bedroom. Words could not escape the unpleasant presence of morning phlegm from her throat and mouth.

Her attempts at squirming were betrayed by the grip of the blanket which entwined her body.

She could not achieve a glance of the hand which threw the paper onto her room as it disappeared before her sleeping eyes darted at the door. But she presumed it to be her stepmother's, who had previously harried her on her inability to find work since graduation; the day she and her fellow graduands were as jovial as a dog at the face of meatballs.

Smiles were as wide as the sky. Ululations rang throughout the hall as her name was being called. She had walked the walk of pride, the walk of hope. She had finally found the key to escape the life of suffering and unshackle herself from the chains of generational poverty.

"When is your education benefiting us?" Her stepmother had cried out during one of their heated arguments.

If anything the key she acquired was that of hopelessness and depression. Fear and anxiety.

She sprang from her bed as if it had burnt her, and dashed towards the paper to study its contents. It was another job advert.

She shook her head and threw it on top of a pile of other job advert papers which lay on her bedroom floor.

According to the clock on the wall the time was 9am. The morning sun revealed its golden glow. The sun shone but her life remained dim. Her days were covered in rich dark clouds.

This is a predicament not unique to her, but plenty of other graduates and young people who are languishing in the state of joblessness and discarded onto a lonely island of poverty in South Africa today.

Statistics SA has revealed that the unemployment rate in South Africa has reached a staggering 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021; the highest since the start of the Stats SA's quarterly labour rate in 2008.

Moreover, 63,3% of young people remained without jobs in South Africa and among the black African population, unemployment remains higher than the national average; with black women being the most vulnerable.

During his State of the Nation speech earlier this year, President Ramaphosa promised that the government would make job creation a priority. A song which has been sung by the ruling party to their black constituency since the dawn of democracy. But results, like the recent stats provided by Stats SA, proves contrary to government's so-called commitment to fight unemployment as one of the triple challenges.

So where do young people of South Africa go?

They cannot hew out inspiration to go to school since their educated counterparts are as unemployed as the rest of them.

The boys fall prey to the township alcoholism, crime and drug addiction. The girls endure unwanted pregnancy and dangerous diseases that are sometimes sexually transmitted. There is no oasis with which they can source water to drink from in this dry island called South Africa.

The longest serving president of the ANC, Oliver Tambo once lamented: "The children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth does not deserve its future."

Does this country deserve its future?

Indeed Tambo was correct in his analysis; the youth of any country are its future. You destroy the youth, you destroy the future of that country. The country will remain lifeless like a tree with decayed roots and dry leaves.

So where to for the disenfranchised youth in this country?

Former secretary-general of the UN, Kofi Annan, once had this to say: “Empowered, young people can be key agents for development and peace. If, however, they are left on society's margins, all of us will be impoverished. Let us ensure that all young people have the opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies."

South African young people are subjected to the margins of their societies. They are seared in the flames of unemployment and terrible poverty by corrupt and incompetent politicians.

Dr Martin Luther King's dream had not yet found its way to the shores of Azania. The valleys were not yet engulfed, hills were not exalted, mountains not yet made low and crooked places were not yet straightened.

The people live in shacks; rainy days are the worst.

Children are starving; their mouths dry and ankles ashy.

Poverty is violent; Mahatma Gandhi said.

Poverty is painful; drains you out of your energies.

It degrades and undermines; groaning tummies from emptiness.

Poverty kills; the black of the eyes touches the lids and watery tongue dangles from the lips .

And refusing people jobs is subjecting them to a life of poverty forcefully nudging them closer to the ever-approaching darkness of the grave.

* Zwe Nxumalo is a writer working on his first novel.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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