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The generation of 1976 has failed the youth of today — it must give up as gatekeepers

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Rebone Tau is a political commentator and author of The Rise and Fall of the ANCYL. She is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Pan-African Thought & Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg. She writes in her personal capacity.

South Africans need to stop celebrating the generation of 1976 – it has brought us nothing but pain. It is deployed in strategic government positions and is not showing empathy at all. It was able to confront a brutal system in 1976, but today it is not fighting the corruption delaying progress in our country.

This year marks 45 years since the Soweto Uprising, today known as June 16 or Youth Day. There is nothing to celebrate because the youth unemployment rate is above 70% and we don’t have quality free education.

Those of the generation of 1976 who are in leadership positions in politics and government today have failed the youth of this country. There is nothing to celebrate about the generation of 1976 because some of them went into exile and came back to destroy our country. It is clear that they are not patriotic at all. The generation of 1976 has become our oppressor today. We have been facing load shedding since 2007 and we have areas that don’t have water or electricity, so what did this generation fight for?

Today the country is facing many challenges and the generation of 1976 is in a position of power to change the lives of South Africans, but it is failing dismally in this regard. South Africans need to stop celebrating the generation of 1976 – it has brought us nothing but pain in this country. It is deployed in strategic government positions and is not showing empathy at all. The economy is growing at a very slow pace, which means poverty continues to be on the rise in this country. There is so much corruption in this country – both in government and the private sector – and we are not hearing the voice of the generation of 1976 or seeing it fighting corruption. It was able to confront a brutal system in 1976 and today it is not fighting the corruption that is delaying progress in the country.

Enough is enough – we can’t be celebrating mediocrity. Young people don’t eat ideas of the past; they want opportunities to build a better life for themselves and their families. In fact, the generation of 1976 benefited from the revolutionary character of previous generations that had belief and trust in young people. Today the same generation of 1976 is not able to hand the baton to the younger generations because it is holding on to power. Have they become dictators who don’t want to let go of power and allow young people who have the capacity to take this country forward?

They need to tell us – when they went into exile to take up arms and do military training, what was it for if we see a lot of people living in poverty today and the lack of service we are facing as a country? Some went to study abroad when they left the country after 1976 as they were given opportunities, but today they can’t even fight for South Africans who are poor to get free quality education. They were nowhere to be seen or heard during the #FeesMustFall Campaign. They have become so comfortable with everything that is happening in the country and there is nothing revolutionary about them anymore.

Speeches don’t put food on the table and that is what the generation of 1976 needs to understand. We are tired of speeches and slogans. Young people want to see this country developing and have equal opportunities with everyone. We have so many graduates who are at home, but the government talks of the issue of skills shortage in the country while failing to explain what this skills shortage actually means. The irony about the generation of 1976 is that the majority of those who survived went into government and opposed everything they fought for in 1976. Some of them became corrupt and that is why today they are failing to speak out against corruption.

Our basic education system has been changed so many times with no concrete results at the end of the day. We need to rethink the education system and the generation of 1976 is failing us dismally in this regard, as it is the gatekeeper of the younger generations.

Last, I would like to quote Che Guevara: “Youth should learn to think and act as a mass. It is criminal to think as individuals!”

The generation of 1976 is actually thinking as individuals and thinking it is the only generation that produced revolutionaries. It has failed to work closely with the younger generations. We can’t erase the role it played, but now it is not taking us anywhere as a nation. History has no blank pages and we will have to reflect on what it is that the 1976 generation has done since 1994.

It really needs to account and stop being gatekeepers wanting to control young people. It needs to share its experiences and hand over the baton if indeed it loves our country. DM

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