File photo: The ANC has identified the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality as threatening our stability, says the writer.

The high number of youths without jobs is catastrophic for our people and economy and is reason enough to declare a state of emergency, writes Andile Lungisa.

A clarion call to my president: immediately declare a state of emergency to eradicate unemployment and the indigence of youth in South Africa forever.

As we pay tribute to the generation of 1976, I call on President Jacob Zuma in his capacity as head of state of the Republic of South Africa to declare a state of emergency in line with the constitution to remedy the situation of joblessness, poor living conditions and destitution in general of the youth in my country of birth, South Africa.

There is compelling evidence that the South African population will become completely indigent if the president and state do not rectify the situation and eradicate all socio- economic ills that affect about 39 million (citizens under age of 35) of the 50 million South Africans.

South Africa is an impeccable country with vast natural wealth, abundant fertile agricultural land, fresh water and open seas, stunning mountains and eye-catching river valleys.

This amazing hinterland is inhabited by about 52.98 million citizens with a staggering 77 percent of the total population made up of people who are under 35 years of age.

Youth in South Africa, which is defined as all people between the ages of 14 to 35, make up about 42 percent of the populace, a total of 21 million citizens.

The country and its majority aboriginal people, who are blacks (83 percent of the total population), obtained freedom from colonial rule and apartheid, with the first democratic government established in 1994.

Since then South Africans in general have enjoyed the fruits of their struggle as political and other forms of freedom are guaranteed, but for the majority, meaningful change of their life circumstances has been minimal since 1994.

Many, in particular black youth, continue to languish in unbearable and sometimes sub-human socio-economic conditions.

* Youth unemployment remains very high in the 15 to 24 age group in South Africa.

* Females in this age group have been most affected, with more than 50 percent unemployed since 2002.

* Of the total unemployed labour force, more than 70 percent are young people between the ages of 15 and 35.

* Unemployment is extremely high among black Africans, followed by the coloured population group.

* White youth unemployment has remained stable, below the 10 percent level, since 2002.

In general, it can be concluded that at the centre of the challenges to the youth are unemployment, poor living conditions and generally poor well-being.

The lives of the majority of South Africans, in particular black Africans, leave a lot to be desired.

This after 20 years of efforts on the part of the government to transform this situation.

In colonial and apartheid-era South Africa, whites had completely monopolised state and economy control, including control over and distribution to a select few of the proceeds and benefits of natural resources, land and all other forms of the country’s wealth.

The minority whites had privileged access to every opportunity to improve their lifestyles and livelihoods and these ranged from exclusive access to quality education to privileged and state-facilitated access to plush residential suburbs.

Blacks, especially Africans, were forced to receive mediocre education and were concentrated in townships and compounds which were not fit for the accommodation of humans.

Their sole purpose of living was provision of labour for a whites-only beneficiary economy.

Twenty years into democracy, the legacy of apartheid continues to be a barrier to many attempts by the government to correct the imbalances of the past and this has become extremely uncomfortable.


Just to demonstrate how minimal or less impactful change has been since 1994, especially among aborigines, who constitute more than 80 percent of the population, the abundant land for commercial and residential purposes remains in white hands.

The economy, including the wealth of all the natural resources, is still controlled by minority whites in 2014.

Over and above the unemployment statistics that are published by Statistics SA on unemployment and general living conditions, the last World Bank Report confirmed the shocking situation of youth in South Africa.

Growth of the economy has remained below 7 percent. (It should) ideally be at about 7 percent to slash the unemployment rate, which is recorded to be about 25.2 percent today.

The World Bank report said: “The employment situation is especially challenging for the younger labour force, residents of townships/informal settlements and rural areas, and the non-white segments of the population.”

This is a reality many South Africans can attest to.

Using the Human Opportunity Index, researchers at the World Bank confirmed what many commentators have been saying with regards to unequal opportunities – which are not genetically or a manifestation of laziness among the population groups that are mostly affected, but rather a result of the socio-economic situation that exists at birth for the majority.

“Results show that a South African child not only has to work harder to overcome the disadvantages at birth due to circumstances, but having done so, finds that these re-emerge when seeking employment as an adult.”

Furthermore, the research confirms that policy changes that must be adopted are not easy, as the challenge is complicated, with far-reaching consequences.

“The disadvantages do not stop with that one person – they get transmitted across generations.

“The policy challenge is to find a way to break this vicious, self-perpetuating cycle of inequality in South Africa.”

Other disconcerting but important statistical realities: Growth prospects and unemployment implications

* 77 percent of the 52.98 million people of South Africa are under the age of 35.

* 21 million of the 50 million are people between the ages 14 and 35.

* $408.24 billion (R4397.85bn) is the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa, as recorded in 2013.

* 1.6 percent was South Africa’s GDP growth forecast in 2014’s first quarter.

* 2.5 percent was South Africa’s adjusted GDP growth forecast in July 2013.

* 7 percent-plus is the GDP growth needed in South Africa to begin to significantly reduce the narrow unemployment rate of 25 percent – a big dream in the next five to 10 years.

Labour force facts that are usually overlooked:

* 32.8 million is the number of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 65 in 2013.

* 18 million is the number of economically active citizens.

* 13.5 million is the number of employed, economically active South African citizens.

* 4.5 million is the number of unemployed people among the 18 million that are economically active.

* 25 percent is the Narrow Unemployment Rate.

The youth unemployment stats today make for alarming reading.

* 72 percent of the unemployed (25 percent rate) is the contribution of youth to South Africa’s unemployed.

* 74 percent (15.5 million) of the 21 million young people is the number of youths in South Africa who are “realistically” economically inactive.

* 13.5 percent (2.8 million) is the number of youths in South Africa who are truly speaking “unemployed”.

* 12.6 percent (2.6 million) is the number of youths in South Africa who are employed.

* 300 000 is the estimated number of graduates in South Africa who are unemployed.

Using simple logic then, since only the economically active citizens are counted during labour force surveys, 18.3 million young people in South Africa are without jobs.

This number is inclusive of those who are economically inactive, because reason would dictate that, out of the 18.3 million, only an insignificant number would be students and young people who are helping at their homes.

This situation is catastrophic.

An increase in the (matric) pass rate was noted, from 53.4 percent in 1995 to 67.8 percent in 2010. However, the pass rate with university endorsement has lagged far behind, from 17.9 percent in 1995, dropping to 12.5 percent in 2000.

However, it abruptly increased to 23.5 percent in 2010.

While 40 percent of individuals who start school ultimately pass matric, only 8 to 10 percent of individuals starting school achieve university entrance.

The rate of university degree completion has also been lower for black and coloured youth, compared with other population groups.

Completion rates improved slightly for coloured students, from 75.6 percent in 2006 to 78.1 percent in 2009.

For black students, the growth was insignificantly up from 72.2 percent in 2006 to 73.9 percent in 2009. In South Africa, it is recorded by some that the number of unemployed graduates is 300 000.

Others record this figure to be 600 000.

In conclusion: It is demonstrable that both the short and long-term efforts to reverse the situation of the youth are not feasible and they deceive young people by keeping them in a hopeful situation, while the reality is that nothing impactful will be derived from the current public and private-sector efforts.

Just to eliminate the narrow unemployment of 25 percent, South Africa will need a GDP annual growth of 7 percent.

But in the current environment that is a wild dream.

There is no other option but for the government to declare a state of emergency, which must be lifted only when the situation is rectified, to deal with this potentially detrimental situation the country faces.

If left, the current situation is not only (potentially) socio-politically volatile, but it also threatens the very economic growth that is needed to advance human development.

I have been part of youth development in our country: we cannot sit back and watch this situation.

Just as the youth of the 1950s and the 1970s stood up and faced the socio-economic challenges of that time, I have decided to call upon on the state president of the Republic of South Africa to help us help the country and lift the youth out of deprivation and thrust the country into a path of prosperity.

Section 37 of the constitution or Act No 108 of 1996 provides that a state of emergency may be declared only in terms of an Act of Parliament, and only when:

1 The life of the nation is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency.

2 If the declaration is necessary to restore peace and order.

According to the State of Emergency Act Number 64 of 1997, as per the provisions of section 37 of the constitution, the state president may declare a state of emergency in the Republic of South Africa and in any area within the republic through a proclamation in the Gazette.

The situation of youth in the country has reached a level of calamity, which calls for the president to adopt policy measures that will seek to rectify the situation urgently.

Through conventional and natural means, it is clear that the situation of youth in South Africa and the generations that are to follow will never be transformed.

Opportunities for black youth in South Africa are set by the system that prevailed before democracy and it is clear that no amount of ordinary restorative policy will correct this situation.

The perpetuation of un-favourable conditions of living for youth has the potential of creating disorder in the republic in the not so distant future if these problems are not dealt with effectively and with haste.

If ordinary policies are implemented, the situation in South Africa will never change and the enforcement of the needed transformative policies will never be possible.

* Andile Lungisa is former ANC Youth League deputy president.

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

Sunday Independent