Maverick Citizen

YOUTH DAY

National Youth Coalition hopes to encourage young people to participate in democratic processes

National Youth Coalition hopes to encourage young people to participate in democratic processes
From left: The National Youth Coalition leadership, including Silindile Clifton Nzimande from Africa Unite, Tebogo Motlana from the Youth Indaba, Irfaan Mangera from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Tiny Lebelo from Equal Education, Marcus van Wyk, from YCMA South Africa and Dorothy Mabelebele from Women in Need Organisation. (Photo: Supplied)

More than 100 organisations have come together to amplify the voice of young people in the upcoming Youth Day Parade for Justice and Change.

On Wednesday morning, burnt tyres and rubbish left behind after a service delivery protest littered the streets leading up to the YMCA in Orlando East, Soweto. There was no electricity in the area.

That illustrates why members of the National Youth Coalition (NYC) came out in the rainy weather to plan the Youth Day Parade for Justice and Change. They want to organise the youth to demand answers from those in power.

“The time to act is upon us. We can no longer be idle. If we want to build a just, equitable, prosperous, non-sexist, non-racial and free society, then we must come together to ensure that we are recognised as legitimate stakeholders in building that society,” Irfaan Mangera of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF) said at a press conference.

On 16 June, the coalition will lead the Youth Day Parade for Justice and Change in Tshwane. It is expecting a few thousand young people to participate in the parade that will start at Burgers Park at 9am and end at the Union Buildings. Thereafter, a programme featuring artists, activists and civil society organisations will commence.

On Wednesday, the coalition was meeting at the Orlando East YMCA in honour of the youth of 1976 who organised and planned the protest action there.

“It was in these hallways that the youth of 1976 convened to determine the actions that would lead to the Soweto Uprising, which raised national and global attention. The NYC started as a form of commemoration for the 46th anniversary of the Soweto Uprisings in June 2022,” said NYC spokesperson Zusiphe Batyi.

“The parade is a manifestation of the long-term goals which include the creation of a representative body of organised youth who actively respond to social, political and climate issues, among others,” Batyi said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Young, Gifted, Black and still left behind: South Africa’s youth struggle continues 45 years later

The briefing was led by Irfaan Mangera, the current interim chairperson of the NYC. Speakers included Silindile Clifton Nzimande from Africa Unite, Tebogo Motlana from the Youth Indaba, Tiny Lebelo from Equal Education, Marcus van Wyk from YMCA South Africa, and Dorothy Mabelebele from Women in Need Organisation.

“The AKF’s Youth Activism Programme had been working with communities for four years when it got the call from young people that they needed a platform to build solidarity and activism at a much deeper level. NYC was formed as a result,” said Mangera. 

“This call was made to deal with the crisis that South Africa faces. The multiplicity of crises from unemployment, gender-based violence, poverty, inequality, climate change … and so as young people we found ourselves asking, how do we organise ourselves and make our voices heard?” 

Representatives from different organisations, including SECTION27, the Zero Dropout Campaign and Corruption Watch, gave their messages of support to the coalition. Speakers reinforced the need for collective action in dealing with the country’s crises, and to continue building a platform for young people to organise and work in solidarity to achieve common objectives. 

Apathy

One of the key campaigns the coalition, through its partners, aims to carry out is to tackle the declining participation of youth in democratic processes, including elections. 

The coalition aims to work with other organisations, movements, businesses and all stakeholders in society to register more than a million young people to vote.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Dismal voter turnout at South Africa’s municipal polls a blow to democracy

Speaking about some of the more pressing issues, Lebelo called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to implement the Minimum Norms and Standards for public school infrastructure.

“She must have a plan on how she will end overcrowding and the sanitary backlog in our public schools. Too many young people continue to suffer at the hands of a government that fails to execute its mandate and constitutional obligations,” said Lebelo

The vision of the National Youth Coalition is to build a progressive youth-led coalition that promotes the development of ethical and transformative young leaders who strive to ensure that all youth living in South Africa are empowered and supported in the attainment of their constitutional and human rights.

Mangera asked the youth to remember their predecessors, such as the United Democratic Front, who, 40 years ago, embarked on a similar programme of action to unite a broad range of South Africans in the pursuit of freedom and democracy.

Motlana from the Youth Indaba said, “NYC draws lessons from the past but aims to honour that legacy by actively engaging in shaping the kind of society we want to live in and cementing the role of youth as the drivers of change.

“The youth needs to be gathered in one space and as a collective come up with inputs because this movement is for the youth, formed by the youth and influenced by the youth on the direction it wishes to take.”

He added that the coalition has seven working groups which organisations and individuals are encouraged to join. 

Young people presently tackle issues in their communities such as unemployment and some members run skills development workshops offering beauty courses and event and decor training. Some train the youth on digital skills which children from previously disadvantaged communities usually can’t access. Some hold gender-based violence and equity dialogues.

Most activists cited financial constraints and apathy in the youth as among the challenges in their work.

Sindile Ndamande, a human rights activist who has worked in organisations such as Africa Unite, noted this youth apathy, saying: “I found that the people who come to the gender equity dialogues are people who already understand the concepts, and it’s also mostly women. Male participation is low, unfortunately. Even with skills development training, there are always substantially more women.”

The National Youth Coalition called for donations to help drive their work forward. DM

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