#YouthDay: We must be proud of our past and confident about the future

Published Jun 16, 2019


On 16 June 2019 our country will be commemorating our 43rd anniversary of the 1976 Youth Uprising.

After the banning of the ANC in 1960 and our leadership exiled and imprisoned, the anti-apartheid movement was on the back foot after a decade of mass defiance. 

Some historians argue that for the next decade an "interregnum of contest and paralysis" existed in the anti-apartheid movement while it was left to president OR Tambo to pedantically rebuild the ANC. 

Thus, the impact of June 16 1976 was the culmination of more than a decade of frustration that exploded.

Since that fateful day, the defiance to apartheid was re-awoken and our fight became continuous, persistence and unbroken for the next 22 years with new generations joining the struggle until the dawn of democracy  on 27 April 1994. 

Youth participated in all four pillars of struggle namely mass mobilisation, armed struggle, the underground and international solidarity.

The youth of '76 like the generations before them fully understood their generational mission, that "out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it". 

They developed the skills and expertise to fight the Apartheid government and acted upon it with a clarity of purpose. 

The generations of Solomon Mahlangu, Peter Mokaba, Ronnie Mamoepa, Collene Williams and Dipuo Peters continued with the struggle to end Apartheid and build a developmental democracy that is united, non-racial and non-sexist.  

As we begin the journey of the next 25 years of our struggle the youth of today must ask the question: What is there generational mission? 

To answer this question, we first need to understand the challenges and opportunities that we have been confronted with over the past decade? 

Today our world is changing at a pace faster than ever before, the geo-political, economic, environmental and technological space have undergone tectonic shifts. 

We began the decade with the so called ‘’Arab Spring’’ that shook parts of north Africa and the Middle East. 

Democratic euphoria swept across much of the developing south with peaceful transitions to democracy in countries such as Comoros, and Madagascar amongst others. We have had numerous examples of peaceful resolution to conflicts both on the continent and beyond. 

Equally as we near end of this decade we are witnessing revolutions and counter revolutions. Globally there has been an increase in extremism terrorism, religious fundamentalism, populist right-wing nationalism, neo-fascism, xenophobia and racism in both the developed and developing world. 

The era of coups, wars and super power interference in the sovereignty of nations as well as the rise of strong men and women has reared its ugly head again.

As I write there are several high and low intensity wars taking place across several continents including in the Middle East in Yemen, Syria and Iraq as well as in Africa. 

Wars are being fought both along traditional lines as well as the newer asymmetrical tactics of war by proxy (such as in Syria), cyber wars and robust trade wars between the traditional superpowers such as the US and Russia (multi-polarity) as well the newer emerging super power China (tri-polarity).   

As we near the end of this decade our triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment is increasing globally, continentally and within South Africa. The historical multi-lateral international rules-based order is under threat. 

Unemployment is at 27.6% in South Africa of which jobless youth accounts for 63.4% thereof (StatsSA, 2019). Ordinarily, South Africa was supposed to harvest the benefits from the continental youth bulge, in the context of a thriving African economy. 

However, the World Bank (2011) indicated that intra-continental trade in Africa remains uninspiring at 11%, whilst between South Africa and the rest of the continent it is at 22%, with the balance of trade being mainly with the rest of the developed world. This is a complete anti-thesis of a development trajectory, which should underpin the economic outlook of Africa’s 54 states.

What is to be done?

The best way to preserve the legacy of the class of '76 is for our youth of today to fully understand their generational mission of how to address all these aforementioned challenges in our country, region, continent and globally.

Our youth must gain the right skills and expertise to grow and create a competitive and inclusive economy with shared prosperity. Youth must prepare themselves for the new world of work. 

Subjects such as coding should be become a compulsory third subject taught at primary school level rather than an individual subject at tertiary level.  

As we rebuild Africa we will require a nation of engineers, soft ware programmers, builders, architects, quantity surveyors, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, doctors and entrepreneurs to mention but few. Our youth need the skills to become "glocal’’ (global and local) citizens i.e. the ability to work both locally and abroad whilst remaining committed to our national democratic agenda.

Equally the youth require not only the hard-technical skills to make our country and continent a success but they must develop and understanding of and a commitment to becoming patriots, international solidarity activists, cadres and ambassadors for the developing world.

South Africa remains a shining example of peaceful transitions of divided nations and our youth must continue with this legacy.

As a country our youth must grasp the opportunities of continuous further education and training made available through our policies such as the national student financial aid scheme to attend tertiary institutions. 

To undermine joblessness, implies that learning should become a lifelong experience.

Youth must also grasp the opportunities made available through the work of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, to further their studies by obtaining scholarships to study abroad, participate in international internships and exchange programmes. 

This is a decisive intervention and we must toil tirelessly to ensure that we expose 20,000 South African young people to the international arena of solidarity, in which the acquisition of high skills will be possible, and a heightened ‘consciousness, as a product of development’ (Engels). 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been instructive that "too many of our people do not work, especially the youth"; that we must maximize the value of the new, heightened technological innovations.  

* Alvin Botes is a ANC NEC member and the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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