Nearly 200 young South Africans, wearing face masks and keeping a distance, marked the country's Youth Day holiday, the 44th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto students' uprising which helped to bring about the end of the country's previous regime of racist, minority rule. Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP/African News Agency (ANA)
Nearly 200 young South Africans, wearing face masks and keeping a distance, marked the country's Youth Day holiday, the 44th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto students' uprising which helped to bring about the end of the country's previous regime of racist, minority rule. Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

Crisis of unemployment dominates Youth Day speeches

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Jun 17, 2020

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Johannesburg - Political parties have called on the government to use youth month to reflect on the escalating joblessness of young people in the country and effective ways to mitigate that.

Tuesday saw the 44th commemoration of the Soweto students uprisings by young people opposed to the enforcement of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction by the apartheid government.

The EFF lamented that the youth, including graduates, were trapped in hopelessness and depression as they dominated the ranks of the unemployed due to lack of inward industrial development.

In his virtual message, EFF leader Julius Malema accused the ANC-led government of having no political will to transform the country to the benefit of those who were meant to be economically liberated.

“The crisis of unemployment will not be resolved and will appeal to the moral conscience of captains of industry. These are the same people who profit from the super exploitation of black people and we cannot expect them to be the same ones who will save us from this crisis,” he said.

The party said youth unemployment could be reduced through legislative enforcement of employment quotas in both the public and private sector.

Malema said the EFF’s planned school for learners from poor backgrounds would in part be in commemoration of that 1976 generation whose legacy needed to be honoured through “building long-lasting projects and enforcing effecting legislation”.

ANC National Youth Task Team spokesperson Sizophila Mkhize said conditions for millions were yet to improve, despite the sacrifices made by the previous generations. “Our people are still in the shackles of poverty. They are still stuck in the shacks with no jobs and food for the next day. The rich continue to get richer while the poor get poorer. We have not seen the world of milk and honey. We were told that education is the key that opens up the doors of success, but we are seated with thousands of unemployed and unemployable graduates,” Mkhize said.

Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the federation wanted the government to intervene and help the many young workers who entered the labour market with an albatross of historical debt around their necks, largely acquired through student loans. “About 41% of these young people who have graduated are sitting at home and watching their dreams passing them by because of unemployment and indebtedness,” he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government was doing its bit despite continuing economic challenges to uplift the youth through the provision of education and training opportunities, as well as job and business opportunities. “Whether it is through the work of the National Youth Development Agency, the Expanded Public Works Programme or through the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, we are broadening the frontiers of opportunities for our young people every day,” he said.

Ramaphosa admitted that the country’s deeply unequal socio-economic circumstances had a major influence on how people withstood the shocks posed by Covid-19, including the youth and students. “We can no longer, for example, have a situation where young people in rural areas do not have access to technology to enable them to work and to study. This pandemic provides us with an opportunity to inject new perspectives into how we can turn our economy around, but also how we can re-imagine our very society,” he said. 

Political Bureau

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