The month of June once again presents an opportunity for introspection and thus to navigate the present-day challenges as youth and students in particular. We continue to draw inspiration and strength from the brave and heroic 1976 generation, commemorating this year the 42nd anniversary since the uprising in Soweto. A generation that fought tooth and nail against the murderous apartheid regime, thus placing the young at the cutting edge of the struggle for freedom in our beloved country.
The era was characterised by mass mobilisation and resistance through various formations on the ground and mostly becoming part of the Self Defence Units (SDU’s) with Sayco as the key role-player infused by the lively slogan of “Freedom or Death – Victory is Certain”. Unity of purpose was seen in action, as they openly defied and stood firm against a heavily armed regime. It was during this difficult period that the youth of that era won themselves the name Young Lions from President Oliver Reginald Tambo.
The post-1994 democratic breakthrough brought with it various policy interventions in an attempt to defeat abject poverty, inequality and substantially reduce the level of unemployment. With the cost of living rising daily, the need to lift our economy to a higher growth trajectory and push back the frontiers of poverty cannot be downplayed given the multitude of our people (youth constituting the majority) who are still outside the mainstream economy with little or no hope at all of salvage: A legacy of colonialism of a special type.
The 22nd Congress of the ANCYL noted and boldly resolved that: “Amid the loads of socio-economic strides which have significantly ushered a better life for many South Africans, scores of young people still remain outside the province of (the) job market and the majority of them still lack potable skills to effectively compete on the open labour market system, particularly blacks, young women, people with disabilities and rural youth. Thus, a fundamental thrust going forward is to ensure that the Youth League as a revolutionary vanguard of youth strategic interests keep the flame burning in pursuit of total eradication of economic marginalisation of the youth.”
We thus should grapple with specific fundamental questions: Have we lived up to the name “Young Lions”? What are the achievements, setbacks and lessons that have characterised youth development since 1994?
In honour of the Young Lions, collectively with all relevant stakeholders, we ought to raise the gear and vehemently fight against youth unemployment, women and children abuse, the rapid spread of HIV/Aids, alcohol and substance abuse, poverty, illiteracy, lack of patriotism, academic and financial exclusions, unequal access to opportunities (especially financial, labour market and technological access) etc, in all facets of our society. Our ability to rise beyond petty squabbles and to unite will go a long way in propelling the struggle forward. The future of South Africa lies in the youth of today.
The past few years were characterised by heightened mass action across the country, surely building on the cumulative struggles waged since the early 90s in demand of “quality, free education” in the higher education sector. It has rekindled the power of unity of purpose in our country. The 2018 academic year has historically witnessed the first roll-out of this revolutionary programme, albeit with its challenges. Moreover, the progressive youth alliance (PYA) has in the past years consistently called for the introduction of history as a compulsory subject in our basic education, with an understanding that this will go a long way in inculcating patriotism and active citizenry. The recent announcement by the Department of Basic Education thus heeds this clarion call.
In honour of the Young Lions, we must never despair but continue fighting for opportunities for self-employment, skills development, intensify the roll-out of agri-processing initiatives and support of rural agriculture, fast-track the development of SMMEs and co-operatives, return the land to our people, review the curriculum, develop a state-owned bank etc. In so doing we will be the roaring Young Lions of our generation, with vigour to strive towards economic freedom in our lifetime.
We do know that the initial intention of the NYDA was that it would be accessible and thus operate in every municipality. As youth, we are once again tasked with a responsibility to thoroughly assess if this agency is still serving the youth as per its original mandate. This machinery cannot be subjected to the gallows, and as such there is a need to revisit this structure and ensure that it is responsive to the needs of the youth without any ambiguity.
In their honour, we ought to cement the youth voice in the public discourse and be actively involved in our own communities, thus debunking the spectator role and further position ourselves as “Agents of Change” to integrate youth development as central to the developmental agenda.
Hasta la victoria siempre! DM
Tokologo TK Mphahlele is former Sasco Limpopo Chairperson, Former UL SRC Deputy President External and an ANCYL Waterberg RTT Member. He writes in his personal capacity