June 16 holds a special place in the hearts of South Africa’s youth. It is a day that is a constant re-minder of the undaunted and fearless fighting spirit of our forebears as well as the inevitable tri-umph of our people’s just cause over systems of exclusion, marginalisation and racial exclusion.
Since that fateful day in Soweto in 1976, June 16 has been a clarion call to the youth to emulate that gallant generation which forever turned the course of history and laid a solid foundation for apartheid South Africa to be rendered ungovernable and unworkable.
41 years on, we salute the role played by successive generations of young people in daring to rise up against tyranny and give lie to the notion that the apartheid regime was invincible.
Commemorated under the theme, “The year of OR Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empo-werment”, June 16, 2017 is about taking forward this legacy of advancing people’s struggles and the rejection of tyranny.
South Africa in 2017 is a very different place from the South Africa of 1976. Through strides made by the ANC led government, in the words of ANC Chairperson Cde Parks Tau quoting Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg has become a City of “…vibrancy and activity. The centre of our country’s prosperity, providing that opportunity to create a better life for all.”
Soweto - with its rich historical significance - is a bustling metropolis where over the last 23 years marked improvement has been recorded in the lives of our people, and youth in particular. The youth of Johannesburg form part of the beneficiaries of government’s program to introduce formal housing which saw a 131.1% increase in number of households living in formal housing since 1994. They have benefited from the 192.1% increase in the number of households using electricity. It is them that have more than doubled the number of black Africans that have completed matric since 1994.
These democratic gains were achieved because the ANC led government understood and indeed was borne out of the struggles of the people. Amongst others, this meant understanding that youth were not homogenous but products of their communities - the majority of whom are not in leafy suburbs of Sandton, Houghton and Parktown. Interventions to address their challenges would therefore markedly differ. The DA/EFF Coalition in Joburg makes no attempt to understand these distinctions nor put in place effective programs which will target and benefit young people in Diepsloot, Orange Farm and Alexandra. They remain fixated on the maintenance of white priviledge and skewing patterns of distribution of resources in favor of those already empowered.
Access to higher education and skills development is not prioritized; neglecting the fact that black young people in the city look to city-led initiatives and partnerships to help them get bursaries and learnerships. To the DA empowerment of youth is not a priority because the youth that requires empowerment is not their constituency.
The DA continues to live up to its racist character ignoring the most vulnerable, poverty stricken and previously disadvantaged peoples in terms of access to skills, job opportunities and education.
Under this DA/EFF coalition the gains of our democracy are visibly being reversed on a daily basis and youth economic empowerment is removed from council priorities. This is evident with the scrapping of Vulindlel’ eJozi , a youth skills empowerment initiative by the City of Johannesburg in 2015 designed to break down barriers to opportunities by creating pathways for young people to access skills training programs and entry level employment. The struggle for youth economic empowerment remains a dream differed in the City of Johannesburg under the DA- led coalition.
Understanding that Africa has the fastest growing self-paced e-learning market on the planet – 16.4% a year since 2013; in 2015, the then ANC led government in Johannesburg launched and budgeted for e- learning programmes such as Massive Open Online Varsity (MOOV). This was done to ensure that we proactively prepare for the disruptive advent of the Fourth Industrial Revo-lution and use the power of connectivity and digitisation to ensure universal access and breaks down barriers to entry.
While the youth of 1976 would have fought for access to education, 41 years on the DA coalition in Joburg continues to entrench exclusion, by not budgeting for programs such as MOOV nor for bursaries to previously disadvantaged and academically deserving students as the ANC had done in the past.
It has become more urgent than ever that the youth must forge ahead and define their own path. The youth must demand from government in the city of Johannesburg a holistic youth development approach. Our struggle has entered a new epoch - defending the gains of our democracy and pushing back against attempts to derail our revolution.
It was Greek philosopher Aristotle who said that “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime”. For as long as the DA/EFF coalition continues to relegate youth development to the periphery of priorities, the youth of Joburg will remain inspired by the 1976 generation to rise against tyranny. The youth of Joburg will give lie to the notion that this racist, exclusionary regime is invisible.
In the words of giant of our people’s struggle, OR Tambo -”The children of any nation are its fu-ture. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future”.
Loyiso Masuku is the ANC Shadow MMC for Community Development City of Johannesburg.