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Young people to hold Youth Day Parade at Union Building...

South Africa

JUNE 16

Young people to hold Youth Day Parade at Union Buildings for ‘responsibility, equality, and gender and climate justice’

From right to left, Mzwandile Banyathwa (Corruption watch), Omhle Ntshingila (Right to Protest), Dudu Etsang Mmeti (Defend Democracy), Irfaan Mangena (Ahmed Kathrada Foundation youth activism programme), Otsile Nkadimeng (Grade 12 learner for Climate change), Lawrence Manaka (Equal Education), Mahayle Khonziwe (Fight Inequality Alliance), Faeeza Lok (Voice of the People) and Motheo Brodie (Section 27). (Photo: Supplied)

Representing the 76 organisations (so far) that have endorsed the parade to the Union Buildings from Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Irfaan Mangera of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said they had received an assurance from the Presidency that an official would be available to receive a memorandum that will contain recommendations and solutions to the issues young people face.

Gearing for the Youth Day Parade for Justice and Change on June 16, young South Africans, together with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and several other pro-democracy organisations, gathered at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Orlando, Soweto, on Thursday to reveal their plans for the day.

Antoinette Sithole, the sister of Hector Pieterson, told the briefing: “Today’s youth might not be able to do what we did but I’m expecting you to come up with better solutions because you are the future leaders. Like you, we were fighting for generations to come. This means you must take a stand, no matter what, but in a responsible manner.”

Mandla Nkomfe, the deputy chair of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF), said: “You can participate in politics, that’s fine, but you must know that politics is not the only form of participation in society. We must go back to the idea of being lifelong activists.” 

“It is time to push on despite the difficult circumstances. We too cannot give up now. Let us mark this year as a turning point for us to continue the work to bring about true justice and change,” said Irfaan Mangera, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Youth Activism Programme manager.

Young people were represented by a number of organisations, including SECTION27, Corruption Watch, Right2Protest, Fridays for Future, Voice of the People, the Fight Inequality Alliance and Equal Education. The event was organised in conjunction with the AKF Youth Activism Programme. 

Representing the 76 organisations (so far) that have endorsed the parade to the Union Buildings from Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Mangera said they had received an assurance from the Presidency that an official would be available to receive a memorandum that will contain recommendations and solutions to the issues young people face.

The young people had raised many serious issues affecting their livelihoods. Accountability, responsibility, inequality in education, unemployment, climate justice and gender justice all came to the fore. 

“I wish you good luck in your in your organisation and I’m sure you are going to ignite new ideas in how we organise society,” the AKF’s Nkomfe said.

“Our generation’s preoccupation was to get rid of race-based ideologies. In essence, we were activists, not politicians,” he said.

The young people also pleaded for tolerance from the security forces during the parade.

“I would really like to caution Public Order Policing and ask them to do their job on the day and to steer away from arbitrary police violence that might take place on the day of the Youth Parade and actually do their jobs. We are against any type of arbitrary police violence that might also come from private security,” Omhle Ntshingila from Right2Protest said.

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Representing Corruption Watch, Mzwandile Banjathwa said the organisation was mindful of the multiple challenges that young people were facing. He encouraged the youth to “take the baton” from older activists in what he described as the most unequal country in the world.

Banjathwa decried the undermining of the gains of democracy, which he said “continues to put a price tag on our future as young people. We need to ensure the fight against the abuse of power wherever it raises its ugly head – unfortunately, young people are passive victims of corruption.

“Have we achieved freedom in our lifetime? Maybe, but if you look at the issues that you are dealing with here and the range of organisations that are here, you are dealing with substantive social and economic issues, not politics.”

“It’s going to be important that you insist on accountability from the people who are political leaders,” Mangera said.

“We have a government that has really pushed us to the periphery. The youth of this country deserve better. The youth of this country really deserved a government that invests not only in talent but also in the things they can be productive in,” Ntshingila said.

“We need to be forthcoming around fighting issues of youth unemployment, the crisis of basic education, higher education and many other issues. We’re the ones mostly affected by the social ills, we’re the ones that need to be forthcoming in resolving them,” Duduetsang Mmeti of the Defend Our Democracy campaign said.

“When a young person, a young student returns home to study under candlelight then you know that there’s something wrong. When a young person or an employed young person who is seeking work has to take three taxis to get to where job opportunities are instead of taking one train then we know that something is wrong,” Mmeti said.

Mmeti spoke as the country grapples with a rail infrastructure collapse, caused by theft and vandalism, that has forced many commuters into more expensive modes of transport.  

“We as young people of this country must demand accountability. We must also be ready to account for ourselves,” said Mmeti.

“Participatory democracy is also central to the struggles of young people. This is why we need more young people involved in the process of democratic change and renewal, and… we need to be very central in this process of participatory democracy,” said Mangera.

Otsile Nkadimeng, a Grade 11 learner and climate change activist, lamented: “This is wrong. I should be at school right now preparing for my exam which I’ll be writing tomorrow. But because governments and our leaders have failed to take adequate measures to protect my generation and all of them from the climate crisis I am forced to be here.”

“These extreme weather events are going to become more and more prevalent. And for our government to continue to follow this shortsighted idea of continuing to invest in fossil fuel projects for short-term gains is irresponsible and dangerous,” said Nkadimeng.

“I [shouldn’t] have [to] come here and have to tell the adults in the room to wake up and do something because it is irresponsible of them to continue to perpetuate a crisis that puts billions of people at risk,” he added.

“We are here to call upon the government, and particularly those who are leading us, to ensure that they provide just and equitable education now, not tomorrow,” said Lawrence Manaka, Equal Education’s Post-School Youth deputy chairperson of the National Council. 

Manaka said it was time the government stopped using a lack of resources as an excuse for the inadequate education system and provided proper education. Manaka decried a research study that revealed that 75% of all Grade 4s in South Africa cannot read for meaning in all languages. He said the fact that the country might take 80-plus years to reach 95% literacy was frightening.

“The government must do a lot broadly to ensure that redistributive and radical measures are taken to fight against unemployment, poverty as well as inequality,” said Manaka.

Faeeza Lok of Voice of the People said: “We have become so heartbroken by our democracy that we don’t believe in it any more. It only exists in our imaginations. We didn’t come here to fear our future, we came to shape it. 

“The future we want to create requires us to use our imagination and be open to learn, unlearn and relearn, like unlearning unconscious bias and learning to transition from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.”  

“Words like ‘uninterested’ are used to describe young people, but I think this action demonstrates that this isn’t the case,” SECTION27’s Motheo Brodie said.

“We are mobilising and we’re organising and presenting very clear demands with various solutions that we’re proposing. As SECTION27, we stand in solidarity with the programme and all the organisations involved.” 

The Gala Queer Archive’s Obvious Nomaele told the briefing about the murder of young queer people and asked if the organisers would address the safety concerns of the LGBTQI community, “before, during and after” the parade. 

In response, Mangera said everything possible would be done to provide for the safety of all attendees, as well as to enable the participation of people with disabilities.

Asked about their attitude to inviting an organisation like Operation Dudula to participate in the coalition, Mangera said: “I don’t think that they would resonate with our kind of messages, which are for all people’s human rights, including migrants, but it’s something I could be challenged on, and perhaps even by my own members of the coalition.” 

The organisers appealed to people of all ages to support the Youth Parade and its demands. In particular, they called on businesses to assist financially and in other ways. 

“It’s time for young people to reclaim the legacy of June 16th,” said Mangera, “and we appeal to young people everywhere to participate if they share the values we have spoken about today.” DM

For further information about the Youth Parade contact: 

Irfaan Mangera: 072 910 8483, Zaki Mamdoo: 081 395 9738, Obakeng Kgatshe: 084 675 9483, Kabelo Kemp: 072 057 1922, or email [email protected]

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