Opinionista Monamodi O Thothela 26 July 2018

South Africa’s Youth: A ticking time bomb or an opportunity?

Drug and alcohol use among the youth will only serve to halt the promise of poverty eradication through land ownership.

Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje in his book The Native Life in South Africa articulated on the economic, social and political reality that faced an African person as a result of the decree made by the Natives Land Act (NLA) of 1913.

He observed that “awaking on Friday morning, 20 June 1913, the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth”.

A hundred-and-five years later, in the month of June, we commemorated the gallant rejection by the youth of 1976 of Afrikaans as the primary mode of education, which was a strategy of the apartheid government to form a counterfeit identity for the native pariahs created by the NLA. Whereas the NLA dispossessed the natives, creating poverty, destitution and subjugation within the African community, the introduction of Afrikaans as the primary mode of education was meant to create a dependency and a victim identity; based on white domination, within the African community.

Today, the offspring of the native pariahs; the African youth, are born into economic, social and political exclusion. This exclusion is a fertile and high-risk ground for the development of poverty traps and vicious poverty cycles1. This is evidenced by the rising poverty levels in South Africa from 53.2% in 2011 to 55.5% individual poverty level in 20172. Most of these poor individuals are the African youth, who reside in households which live below the poverty line and are mainly found in neighbourhoods that are excluded from real economic activity. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) warns that these young Africans have little chance of getting a good education, because the school system of most poor people is weak.

Furthermore, when this youth leaves school, only a few will find jobs and most of these jobs will neither provide good remuneration nor job security. In this manner, the vicious poverty cycles are entrenched and strengthened, resulting in more young Africans living in poverty, destitution and despair. This is highly unnerving, as the country’s average age is between 22 and 25 years3. This indicates that South Africa is a troubled country with a bleak future; particularly for the young Africans, as the country’s leadership fails to harness the advantages and reap the enormous rewards bestowed by this youth dividend.

The question then arises, is South Africa’s rising youth population a ticking time bomb or an opportunity?

These young Africans have no resources to take advantage of future opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution which requires elevated cognitive, technological, analytical and technical skills4. In such a state of hopelessness, depression and despair some of these young people capitulate to the lure of escapism through drugs. As a result, drug abuse is a growing problem in South Africa, with 7.1% of the population abusing narcotics of some kind5. In order to feed the urge of drug addiction, these young addicts tend to criminal activities and they terrorise the families and communities within which they live.

We as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) however, see this rising youth population as an opportunity, despite the challenges they face!

We believe that legislative, policy and regulatory frameworks ought to pay utmost attention to the real cause of this poverty that affects the African youth. We believe that the real cause of this poverty is landlessness that was legally created through the endorsement of the NLA. Our proposed solution is that the South African Constitution should be amended to legalise the state expropriation of land without compensation, and this land must then be placed under the custodianship of the state, which will administer and redistribute it equitably to all South Africans for residential and productive use. In this manner the African youth will have access to land for food security and inclusion into the mainstream economy.

The Commander in Chief of the EFF, Julius Malema articulated this crucial aspect of Land ownership in his speech on 4 March 2018 at the Standard Bank Arena in which he reminded youth that drug and alcohol use will only serve to halt the promise of poverty eradication through land ownership.

The land is coming back to you, you must be ready. Don’t abuse alcohol and drugs because you will not be able to work the land. You need to focus on educating yourself in making the land more productive and you cannot do that if you are controlled by mind-altering substances. Young people, the land is coming back, capacitate yourself in order to progress as a nation,” he said.

Do not despair because of poverty, do not turn to drugs or alcohol abuse. These will continue to further entrench a despondent African nation. Rise above your circumstances and say no to drug use. DM


  • SAHRC and UNICEF. 2014. Poverty traps and social exclusion among children in South Africa. Pretoria: SAHRC.

  • Poverty trends in South Africa: An examination of absolute poverty between 2006 and 2015 / Statistics South Africa.

  • Census 2011: Population Dynamics / Statistics South Africa. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa, 2012.

  • McKinsey Global Institute. 2018. Skill Shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce.

  • Christian Drug Support

Monamodi O Thothela is a branch member of the EFF Midrand Ward 132 Branch, Johannesburg. He writes in his personal capacity.


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