South Africa’s “ticking time bomb” – the unemployed and out-of-school youth – have lost hope that they will ever get jobs. This has fuelled speculation that the country faces the possibility of greater social upheaval due to high levels of youth unemployment.
Recent Stats SA figures estimate that there are 2.8 million unemployed young people aged between 15 and 35 years. And the rate of unemployment is officially at 23 percent, although unofficial estimates go as high as 40 percent.
“This is a crisis. We call it a ticking bomb,” Cosatu’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi warned last week. “We think that one day there may be an explosion. Seventy-three percent of people who are unemployed in South Africa are below the age of 35 and a lot of them have been to universities,” Vavi said.
Pretoria News took to the township streets to find out who the unemployed youth are and what their views are about their situation. A random survey in various Tshwane townships, including Atteridgeville, Mabopane, Mamelodi, Soshanguve, Hammans-kraal and the city centre showed that whether a person had matric, a degree or no qualifications at all, the lack of job cuts across all levels.
We spoke to more than 30 youth, mostly males, who were loitering, selling ice packs or guarding cars, and they all seem to have lost hope that they will ever be active participants in the South African economy.
Itumeleng Moloto, 24, from Atteridgeville, said: “I have been trying to get a job since I matriculated in 2009, but the demands were impossible: They want a driving licence, years of experience; sometimes they want you to have your own car… that, is our downfall.”
The father of a two-year-old girl said the strain on his grandmother to provide for them was too much, but he feels that neither the government, nor the different agencies that claimed to provide both empowerment and upliftment of society, cared.
Greg, aged 26, has no matric but has worked for the Tshwane Metropolitan Council until a changing of the guard resulted in him losing his job.
“For a year I had an income and helped support my family, but when managers changed, I lost my job.”
He and other youth in the city said they applied for jobs all the time, but had no hope that they would ever get employed.
“People with diplomas and degrees stand together with us in the unemployment queues,” Johnny Sereko, from Blackrock in Saulsville, said, adding that this discouraged him greatly. He has resorted to walking the streets selling ice ice-lollies, and complains about the meagre income he gets: “I don’t even have a cellphone. I don’t make much from the ice, but it puts bread on the table at home every day – and that’s as far as I can contribute.”
Thabiso, Lapisa and Thabiso (who did not supply their surnames) were playing a game of cards on the street to keep themselves occupied. The first two have passed matric; the other said his unemployed father had been unable to see him through high school.
The trio said they spent their days sitting, doing nothing.
“To be honest, it is very painful to be an adult with no money, not even to buy a cooldrink in this heat,” said Lapisa.
The trio said they doubted their chances of ever getting employment and suspected that their CVs never got further than the boxes they dropped them into.
Paul Mnguni competes with others to help drivers to park their cars in Church Street.
He dropped out of school before matric and worked in a couple of shops for a while. When those jobs ended he was forced to hustle by parking cars.
Said Mnguni: “I have actively tried to find a job for eight years now but none are available. I had no choice but to come into town to do this,” he said.
Some of the other informal parking attendants said they enjoyed doing what they did, because they received payment immediately. They have no vision of the future and say they will deal with it “when it comes”.
PAC youth co-ordinator Pitso Mphasha believes the frustrations of the youth grow with every job queue where they are rejected.
According to Mphasha, what is more painful is that the scourge of youth unemployment is rife even among young people who have tertiary qualifications.
“It is painful, because being qualified does not mean you will get a job. Young people see people who do not even have qualifications getting ahead, because of nepotism and corruption and it just adds to their frustrations,” said Mphasha.
He said the government strategy of creating jobs through infrastructure projects was not sustainable as projects were only temporary.
“Projects come and go.
“We need sustainable job creation measures. The basis of this is the ownership of land because without it, young people cannot even create initiatives that can be sustained, as they have to rent the land they will carry out these initiatives on,” said Mphasha.
Youth Development Organisation member Temba Lushaba said government promised to create employment every year but the situation did not improve.
“We have so many young unemployed people out there, who have matric and no prospects of finding jobs in either the public of private sector because of the requirements at application,” he said. - Pretoria News