This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the June 16 Soweto and related uprisings in Manenberg, Kagiso, Gugulethu, Wattville, Alexandra, Langa, Bonteheuwel, Mamelodi and many other parts of our country.
During the course of these uprisings, the apartheid regime massacred hundreds of people, mainly youth who challenged the indignity of inferior education and being taught in Afrikaans. The brutal response of the state to the peaceful demonstrations became a rallying point that inspired a nation and its people to rise up against apartheid in a more concerted and organised way.
OR Tambo referred to the brave and death-defying youth of the 1976 and subsequent generations as “young lions” because they refuse to surrender in the face of extreme brutality – teargas, shootings, detention, solitary confinement, torture and the like.
Each and every young person must use the June Youth Month to raise their voices to make South Africa aware of the challenges that young people face and to provide a way forward for young people out of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Throughout history young people have always played a central role in shaping our societies and the world. Today is no different.
The nation expects the youth of today to follow in the footsteps of the 1976 youth and become agents of change, this time in the continuing struggle to achieve the goal of a better life for all.
As we begin this youth month, let young people heed the call made by President Cyril Ramaphosa: #Thuma Mina. This is a clarion call also directed to the youth of this country, who make up the majority of the population, to stand up and be counted. Ke nako, It is time to leave drugs, crime and substance abuse and focus on acquiring skills and education in order to participate meaningfully in the economy.
Ke nako, it is time that our collective responsibility as this generation is to always recall the events of 1976 so that the bravery and sacrifices of that generation of young people should serve as an inspiration and compass to us today to work hard to contribute to the solution of the challenges we and our country are confronted with.
Frantz Fanon says: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.”
The youth of 1976 identified their struggle and challenges that they had to confront and fulfil. Forty-two years later, we as the youth are also faced with the obligation to identify the challenges we must confront and define our mission to achieve.
Key among these challenges are poverty, unemployment and access to education. The scourge of unemployment and lack of skills among the youth remains too high and impedes the economic growth that our country strives towards.
The youth of 1976 used stones and barricades against the apartheid regime. Ke nako, It is time that We the youth of today should use education and skills to fight poverty and unemployment.
Ke nako, It is time that we as the youth should be at the forefront of the struggle to defeat violence against, and the rape of, women and children.
So this must be a month wherein we as the youth must be given time and space to confront the challenges head on and come with ways and means of resolving them.
Our generational mission remains Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime, as adopted by the 24th ANCYL (ANC Youth League) National Conference at Gallagher in 2011.
This clarion call will not be achieved through rhetoric and populist, divisive statements, but through pragmatic steps in shaping not only our future but the national agenda of building a non-racial, non-sexist and inclusive society.
Ke nako • It’s time • Dit is tyd. DM
Victoria De Beer is an ANCYL NEC Member