Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the debate on National Youth Day 2013.
National Youth Day commemorates the 1976 Soweto uprising, when thousands of young people took to the streets in protest against the Apartheid government’s directive that Afrikaans alongside English was to be the compulsory medium of instruction.
On that fateful day, protesting students were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students. The aftermath of the events of June 16 1976 had dire consequences for the Apartheid government. Images of the police firing on peacefully demonstrating students led to an international revulsion against South Africa as its brutality was exposed.
Now, 37 years later, we remember those young people who rose bravely in the fight for South Africa’s democratic freedom, and while political freedom came with much jubilation and hope in 1994, the same struggle for quality education and economic freedom continues.
It is a sad indictment that after 19 years of ANC, democratic rule, the youth of our province continue to fight for their place at the centre of government priority.
The ANC’s inability to transform township schools into institutions of quality education continues to subject learners to the legacy of Apartheid education, with little progress being made to develop the skills and qualifications of teachers who themselves were subjects of Apartheid education.
Not only is school infrastructure in a deteriorating state of disrepair, but the ANC has failed to turn schools into educational facilities that seek to restore the dignity of children. So too, the absence of systematically upgrading school sporting facilities have resulted in thousands of young people left bored and loitering the streets of communities at the end of a school day.
It should come as no surprise then that 1564 teenage girls fell pregnant in the first quarter of this year, or that 54 717 of Mpumalanga’s youth aged 14 to 25 have committed a crime, with more than 31 000 arrested.
The ANC is sitting idle witnessing the creation of a lost generation, with only 29% of learners finishing grade 12, hundreds of matriculants produced by the Mpumalanga education department are simply unemployable in the labour market.
As we speak 43% of Mpumalanga’s youth are unemployed, constituting 75% of all unemployment in the province.
And while the ANC will claim to care about our youth, it is the very ANC who are too scared of COSATU to take a firm stance and implement the much needed youth wage subsidy. It is the same ANC who today pass a provincial budget with no single dedicated youth employment or development programme, and it is the same ANC who have instituted a moratorium on the employment of educators, taking from our children to compensate for their poor financial planning and management.
In 1995, during the Youth Day celebrations former President Nelson Mandela said: “This generation of youth stands at the border-line between the past of oppression and repression, and the future of prosperity, peace and harmony”.
Yet, as long as our youth remains largely unemployed and unskilled, and as long as government continues to sideline the youth from mainstream society, we run the risk that the youth of today are more likely to become the subjects of ANC oppression than the agents of prosperity, peace and harmony.
And, in wishing all my fellow young South Africans a marvellous youth day, we recognize that the struggle for youth emancipation is far from over.