Durban Mayor Zandile Gumede. File Picture
eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede says they have earmarked more than a billion rand for youth. 

Today, we remember and salute their courage and resilience, even with the barrels of guns in their faces. We will for ever be grateful to the generations of youth who took it upon themselves to fight for the liberation of this country and Africa.

Even today, the youth are still at the forefront in the second phase of our struggle - fighting for economic freedom to be achieved in our lifetime.

We have come a long way since then and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the youth of today to take up the challenge of setting an example as our future leaders.

This means respect for society’s values and the elderly, taking responsibility for their health through adopting prevention of disease practices like safe sex, and playing an effective role in our economy.

eThekwini, unfortunately, has the highest rates of many of the diseases in our country, with our youth affected the most. Our youth can turn the tide on this. If they don’t step up now, there is a real danger of them becoming unhealthy leaders of tomorrow. Diabetes is no longer just a disease affecting the elderly. It is affecting younger people, driven by unhealthy lifestyles. We need a future generation of leaders who are not only politically responsible but also reflect healthy morals. I would like them to take advantage of our youth health programmes aimed at assisting them make the right health choices, which includes issues like teenage pregnancy, HIV testing and counselling, and free circumcision to name but a few.

Over the coming months I will also expand my consultative workshops to drive awareness of the opportunities available for our youth through our radical economic transformation policies. We have earmarked well over R1 billion to ensure our youth are well represented in our catalytic projects in the city and would like to encourage big business to come on board and partner with us in ensuring our youth are adequately mentored so that they are successful.

Beyond this, we have opened up our contracts to ensure our unemployed youth are given the necessary skills, tools and assistance needed to uplift and nurture them into becoming economically independent and productive members of society.

We have announced a number of projects that respond to the current youth struggles including free sanitary towel distribution, more bursaries for best performing students and those from poor families, and increasing our wi-fi hotspots from 75 to over 200 around the city.

At the same time, I would also like to appeal to our youth to follow proper procedures when applying for opportunities. We cannot have a situation where, as the mayor, I am expected to fast-track applications or interfere in tender processes. We are prioritising youth through the various youth development programmes and our radical economic transformation policy but this must be done within the prescript of our legislative procedures, which must be followed.

Wearing two hats, as chairperson of the ANC in our region and as mayor, there is confusion over what I can do and I’m expected to do.

I fully support economic opportunities for the youth, but we must work together to ensure that we do not compromise the ANC, as the governing authority in our province, or eThekwini Municipality in doing so.

Despite the recession, which has slowed investment and employment opportunities, we are, as government, not compromising on our commitment towards youth empowerment. The youth remain our priority and, working together, we can build a society of which they can be proud leaders.

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