Opinionista Mmusi Maimane 13 January 2014

A generation called to action

If we look back at South Africa’s difficult journey from oppression to today’s democracy, a defining feature is the youth who have been at the front and centre of change, refusing to be held back by the status quo.

Election 2014 will be defined by young people. The historic mission of this generation is to bring about a transformed society, with opportunities for all.

This is the singular objective facing us if we are to create a South Africa where truth, justice and equality reigns. These are ideals not just for this generation, but for our children.

If we abandon this mission, we abandon not just our place in history but also the next generation of South Africans who will inherit the outcome of our deeds.

Government cannot be exempt from doing everything in its power to open up opportunity for youth.

It’s no question that a key characteristic of a developing country is the fact that the majority of its citizens are young.

Our direction in government is making it possible for young people with the necessary skills to work for government, and to be able to lead and impact South Africa.

Government must also partner with the private sector to move towards developing youth and talent. My plans are for a Gauteng government that is perfect mix of young and old so that we get the best of experience and innovation.

My vision is to create a pipeline of opportunity for young people in higher education institutions to be able to contribute towards building a civil service that is more professional and capable.

Even though the youth of South Africa have been at the forefront of changing this country for the better, today they are left behind by an education system that does not fully develop their skills, and a weak economy which leaves many without employment.

When I travel across Gauteng visiting communities, I am saddened by the sight of young people sitting on street corners, who are neither employed, nor in education or training.

I am also angered that this generation is not able to achieve its potential, due to the inaction of the current government.

Like during the days of oppression, we cannot build a better Gauteng and South Africa if the youth are not at the forefront. The rocks and petrol bombs of the struggle should have been replaced with pens and employment.

That is why my manifesto and strategy for the Believe Campaign will focus on jobs for young people and stopping corruption in government.

I will preview the strategy and manifesto on Monday, 13 January. The key aspects of my manifesto will be discussed in this space over the coming weeks.

I believe that today’s fight should be taking place in institutions of learning and the economy.

Our fight is to build a country where regardless of your circumstances, you have a genuine opportunity to change your life, and those of others.

South Africa’s youth unemployment is at 50%. We are going in the wrong direction.

Many have said to me: why the focus on jobs for young people at the expense of the rest of us?

My answer is: this is not a game of give and take. Young people move to Gauteng not in search of a better life for themselves only. They are to support their families as well.

We are the first generation emerging from Apartheid, a time where our parents were denied the opportunities available to us.

My father came here from the North West at a young age to finish his schooling and take up employment. My mother’s family came to Gauteng from the Eastern Cape, settling in Dobsonville, the place I grew up.

The fact is so many come here to Gauteng in search of hope, and find so little to get by in this place. This is a place that should be the land of opportunity and the main driver of South Africa’s growth.

I am running for Premier to implement policies that will create jobs, especially for young people who, like me, grew up in a township with big dreams of success.

The first change that Gauteng and South Africa needs to make is at the ballot box. I will use the office of Premier and the resources available to uplift the youth, wherever possible – especially in the spheres of education and business. I will stop all funds lost to corruption, and at the moment it runs into billions a year in Gauteng.

Central to transformation is education, and not education of any kind – it must be quality education for jobs.

At primary and secondary levels, principals must be given the resources to effectively manage the roll out of quality education, and also be held accountable when they do not effectively do so despite what the unions say.

Teachers must be well equipped and trained to execute their duties as educators and learners must be provided with the materials and environment that ensures that they excel.

Any student who passes Matric and qualifies to go to an institution of higher learning – FET College or University, should be able to further their studies, regardless of their circumstances. Funds must be made available for this. Where the government cannot provide assistance, I will work closely with the private sector to secure bursaries and scholarships.

When it comes to business, I will establish a Provincial Entrepreneurship programme, where the youth and residents of Gauteng can access training, information and business opportunities, so they can improve their standing in the economy.

It is also crucial that we have a skills registry for youth entering the job market. This is essential for linking work opportunities to these young people.

This is a preview of the commitments I have been making on my tour of Gauteng, where I have asked residents to believe that the dream of a better province and country can become a reality under a DA-led provincial government.

The journey will not be easy but in the end we will see the outcomes of fighting for the province and country we have long wanted and deserved.

Young and old have an opportunity to work together and vote for a government they have long deserved.

If we are to make Gauteng a truly great province, we will need to work together. It is this generation who will ultimately live with the decisions that are made today. DM

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