DA leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo: ANA

Alice -  South Africans are slowly moving away from the idea that their vote should be tied to their identity, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.

"There is a growing realisation that the only deciding factor when casting your vote should be the ideas of the parties involved – their vision for the future of our country, their policies through which they hope to achieve this vision, and the values that underpin their offer," he said at the DA's Youth Day rally at Fort Hare University at Alice in the Eastern Cape.

"This shift is desperately needed in our country right now. We need a fresh start, and we need it soon because life is hard for the millions of people who find themselves locked out of our economy," he said.

This was particularly true for young South Africans. Even the lucky few who made it to university and left with a degree would find it harder and harder to break into the economy as opportunities dried up.

Right now there were almost 9.5 million South Africans who could not find work. For those under the age of 24, there was a two in three chance of being unemployed.

"We cannot even think of building a prosperous country if we don’t have a plan to bring our young people into the economy. Yes, we need them to find employment. But we also need them to become employers. We need to foster a culture of entrepreneurship, and then do all we can to ensure that our young entrepreneurs succeed. Not just for their sake, but for the sake of our country. Our collective future depends on it," Maimane said.

"We must accept that not everyone leaving school will qualify for higher education, and so our plan must include a range of options for everyone. We must dramatically expand internships and apprenticeships for school-leavers. But we must go beyond that and consider solutions like a year of national youth civilian service. Anything to enable young people to get a foot on the jobs ladder," he said.

Opening opportunities for young South Africans should be the "obsessive focus". "Ours must be a cradle-to-career plan that includes improving our early childhood development centres, fixing our failing basic education system, and expanding access to tertiary education, with a truly progressive funding model where the poor are subsidised but those who can afford to pay do so."

Maimane said he was filled with optimism after Fort Hare University students broke from history and placed their trust in a Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (Daso) Students Representative Council (SRC) that spoke for them, and there was no reason why the rest of the country could not do the same with their government. 

African News Agency/ANA