The outcome of the recruitment drive, called Nasi iSpani (loosely translated to “we are hiring”), was more than 1.3 million applications – 1,273,604 online and 73,396 paper-based.
In another era one would have been shocked at the high number of applications. However, the biennial Quality of Life survey by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory has, since 2009, provided insights into quality of life and socioeconomic circumstances – and it mutes any chance of a surprise about the numbers above.
Joblessness, crime and substance abuse continue to be among the leading social melancholies eating at the very fibre of Gauteng, a province that remains a hopeful destination for those fighting to escape the shackles of poverty.
Chief among those affected by these social ills are legions of young people.
It was, therefore, not surprising that the response to the maiden Nasi iSpani Jobs Fair was a groundswell of desperate but aspirant unemployed people – young people from townships, informal settlements and hostels.
It is not that the ideals of the stalwarts of our still fledgling democracy… have grown archaic; the painful indictment is that we have rendered them irrelevant.
On the eve of 16 June, young people from across the province could hardly sleep as they waited in anticipation for the breaking of dawn. At the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto, Khutsong Multipurpose Centre in Carletonville, Rabasotho Hall in Tembisa, Lotus Gardens in Atteridgeville, Faranani Multipurpose Centre in Tsakane and many other community halls, young people gathered from as early as 5am, signalling that they can no longer afford to have their future deferred.
When last did you see young people coming out in large numbers on 16 June and they weren’t going to a party at a local joint or park?
When last did you see young people, besides card-carrying members of political parties, taking any interest in 16 June commemorative events?
Even the “forever young” in the establishment are disillusioned, if we are to face the truth.
Unambiguous message from young people
In scenes that some said were reminiscent of the historic first democratic elections in 1994, snakelike queues marked a poignant reflective point that should forever alter how we commemorate this day.
The thousands and thousands of young people at more than 20 sites set up for the jobs fair sent an unambiguous message: The days of empty political rhetoric are long gone.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Desperate jobseekers queue at Nasrec, as Gauteng government launches Nasi Ispani campaign to recruit 8,000 workers
Young people don’t want to be told about yesterday’s sacrifices that are disconnected from their lived experiences. It is not that the ideals of the stalwarts of our still fledgling democracy, whose indelible footprints continue to dominate our political discourse, have grown archaic; the painful indictment is that we have rendered them irrelevant.
By failing to live up to them, and by being oblivious to the fact that we are nowhere close to the ideals and values they espoused, we have led society to snub them.
Talking rhetorically to our young people without offering practical solutions to decisively respond to their plight is largely the reason they have lost interest in participating in the spectacle of shallow rallies. Disguised as political conscientisation platforms, these are more about those delivering speeches than the audiences being addressed.
Today’s young people have raised their hands in a very deafening way to say that they will not allow themselves to be relegated to what some have termed the “nyaope generation”.
Young people have said unequivocally: “Point us in the right direction, where we too can register our own interest in shaping the future we desire for ourselves.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Youth Employment Service steers 100,000 young people in SA towards work
While the number of applications received far outweighs the 8,000 jobs that were on offer, the commitment made by Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi that future job opportunities will draw first from the already created database is encouraging.
We dare not be a generation that will not respond positively to this clarion call.
The jobs fair, if sustained and freed from political perversion, which nowadays holds young people to ransom, has the potential to reignite the indomitable spirit that lies dormant within every young person who braved the cold weather on 16 June 2023 to make their presence known. DM