Pretoria - The rate of youth unemployment in South Africa remained unchanged at 66.50% in the fourth quarter of 2021 from 66.50% in the third quarter of 2021. This is according to the latest Stats SA data.
The situation of about 70% of our youth aimlessly roaming the streets or being involved in unsavoury, if not criminal, activity is a scary picture.
This army of economically inactive and unproductive but desperate and restive members of our race- and class-divided society is a ticking bomb that will take only a tiny spark to explode.
It is long overdue that our country’s approach to youth development and empowerment is overhauled with a view to taking extraordinary steps that will ensure that our youth become architects of their own destiny.
In approaching and tackling this ever-deepening youth unemployment crisis, we should ensure that the youth are an integral part of the conversation and lead any initiative that addresses their plight. As they correctly state: nothing about us without us!
This conversation assumes even higher significance as our country commemorates 46 years since gallant students and youth protested against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction while rising up against the inhuman apartheid colonialism.
The Class of 1976 was a generation that changed the course of history as they awakened an otherwise oppressed people who were in deep political slumber.
This was subsequent to the banning of the liberation movements, banishments, arrests and jailings, with activists and leaders forced into exile.
It is heartbreaking that today’s youth are a shadow of their forebears as they are faced with myriad hardships instead of enjoying the fruits of the 1994 political settlement.
It is common cause that the majority of those who are economically excluded and feel marginalised are poor and black generally, and African in the vast majority.
Today’s youth face dehumanising unemployment, a yawning inequality gap, crushing poverty, diseases and a drug and gangsterism scourge among a multiplicity of issues.
While the odds are stacked against them, a significant number are taking the proverbial exclusion bull by its horns. A number of initiatives have, and are, being implemented so they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps in pursuance of a dream.
Unfortunately, their efforts have proved to be inadequate as it is the system that they have to contend with and ultimately defeat. They need more than just their indefatigable spirit and unbreakable will to overcome what has destroyed some of their peers.
They need the active support of their families, community, government and other socio-economic actors.
At the onset, our country’s youth need quality education. This is an education system that liberates their minds and adequately prepares them to meaningfully continue towards their development and that of our country.
That education must arm them with the tools to be innovators and entrepreneurs, instead of being part of a growing pool of labourers aimlessly waiting to be exploited by unscrupulous employers and criminal elements alike.
It is therefore long overdue that the government stop engaging in what can safely be viewed as dilly-dallying and experimentation and get our education policy clearly defined and relevant to the patriot agenda of genuine decolonisation while institutions of learning are adequately resourced. The matter of the training and retraining of educators is a subject that has been extensively canvassed. Safe to say that it does not make sense that this urgent matter is not getting the attention it deserves.
We need to get moving in earnest on fixing our broken education system to give our youth a fighting chance in a cruel and destructively competitive world.
Other issues concern cultivating and strengthening the entrepreneurial urge and spirit, instead of the youth just looking for employment.
In any event, who does the country expect to create these much-needed jobs?
It is trite that the government can do only so much. We are aware that the private sector has embarked on an inexplicable boycott of our economy as evidenced by low levels of new investments, if any.
Therefore, we have to go to the beginning and retrace our steps. The Struggle has always been about the economy and who controls it, and this includes the land.
As I have pointed out in some of my writings, the political equation has been, in the main, settled, irrespective of its shortcomings.
The elephant in the room remains landlessness and economic exclusion where the vast majority remain on the periphery.
There has to be something terribly wrong that our economy remains in the hands of a tiny white minority while the vast majority are excluded and continue being poor and landless.
This is a true reflection of a country that is under a capitalist system that has always relied on apartheid colonialism for its survival.
It is therefore foolhardy to think that the present youth can overcome the challenges they face without this reality being a major hindrance.
It is also ludicrous that other generations who came before them are either disinterested or assimilated or are preoccupied with senseless battles for crumbs from the colonialists’ table.
The task at hand calls for an intergenerational effort to undertake it successfully. This inter-generational mission of genuine decolonisation of our country cannot, and will not, be accomplished by posturing of disparate, fragmented generations. It calls for unity of purpose and clarity of mind.
Historically, various generations have changed the course of our Struggle, with the 1940 generation re-energising and injecting militancy into what was a seemingly moribund ANC at the time.
In the 1960s, another generation were the nucleus of the people’s war against apartheid colonialism, and the 1976 generation reawakened the natives subsequent to the Sharpeville massacre, liberation movement bannings and leaders and activists being banned, jailed or forced into exile.
Then came what was to be known as the Generation of Young Lions of the 1980s who responded to the clarion call to render the country ungovernable and the apartheid system unworkable.
The challenges of the post-1994 political settlement of neocolonialism calls for all these generations, including the present, to clearly define their (intergenerational) mission based on a concrete and implementable plan.
This should, by necessity, be a genuine decolonisation plan that aims at dismantling the power relations at all levels of our society.
This plan should fundamentally decolonise political, economic and social structures that have hitherto served the colonial settlers and promoted whiteness.
A broad patriotic front that brings together generations to reclaim the land and our other natural and mineral resources has to be built.
It is through this unity of purpose and clarity of mind, with the current youth on board, that there will be a forward movement that brings all of us closer to genuine decolonisation.