Address by President Jacob Zuma at the National Youth Day Commemoration, Tshing Sports Ground, Ventersdorp
Theme: “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment”
The Premier of the North West
Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs, Executive Mayors and councillors,
Members of Parliament and Legislature,
Members of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders also here present,
Leadership of the National Youth Development Agency and other youth organisations,
All the young people of South Africa,
Fellow South Africans,
Bagaetso Dumelang! Molweni! Sanibonani!
Today South Africa marks 41 years since the heroic uprising by the youth of our country on 16 June 1976.
This year’s national commemoration is held in the home of our struggle stalwart, JB Marks, whose remains we fetched from Russia and reburied here two years ago, and whose tombstone was unveiled in February this year.
We pay tribute to him yet again as we recall this great but tragic moment in our history.
National Youth Day is significant in our country, as it acknowledges the heroism of the youth of 1976 who took on the apartheid state to register their total rejection of the diabolical Bantu Education system at the time. They also took to the streets in order to advance the goals of the broader struggle for liberation and democracy in their country.
They changed the course of history and the face of politics in our country.
The uprising moved from Soweto to other parts of the country, as our people said enough is enough, they wanted to be free from the yoke of apartheid oppression.
We pay tribute to all who lost their lives on this tragic day, such as Hector Petersen, Hastings Ndlovu and many others in Soweto and other parts of the country, on June 16 and throughout that year.
We remember the pain of the families of those who went missing such as Mbuyisa Makhubu who is depicted carrying Hector Petersen in the famous and historic June 16 picture taken by photographer Sam Nzima.
We also acknowledge the leadership of the June 1976 mass student revolt who contributed to moving our struggle forward such as Tsietsi Mashinini, Khotso Seatlholo, Seth Mazibuko, Super Moloi, Daniel Montsintsi, Billy Masetlha, Murphy Morobe and many others.
We also acknowledge women who played a prominent role but who are left out of the mainstream June 16, 1976 historical narrative, such as Sibongile Mkhabela, Margaret Masabalala, Eunice Sithole, Patience Banda and many others. We urge historians to ensure the inclusion of women in our June historical records and every other key episode in the history of our struggle, as there is a tendency to focus on males when history is recorded.
Today we also honour the successive generations of youth for having always been part of every radical or momentous phase in our movement’s history, led by various leaders including the late courageous Peter Mokaba.
The youth of 1976 fought for political freedom which dawned in 1994 after a long protracted struggle by our people. The youth is now fighting for social and economic freedom.
The youth of 2017 is fighting for freedom from poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The Government in 1976 responded with guns to the call of young people for freedom and a better life.
The democratic government calls upon young people to work with us in all spheres of government, as we proceed to ensure that young people live in decent homes in communities with roads, electricity, water, recreational facilities.
We want youth to access university and college education, to be free from drug and substance abuse, to be free from HIV and AIDS due to prevention and treatment. We want our youth to contribute to the advancement of the country in science and technology, sports, medicine and other fields. Most importantly, they must achieve economic freedom.
It is for this reason that this year’s National Youth Day is celebrated under the theme: “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment.”
Mr Oliver Tambo, the centenary of his birth we celebrate this year, believed in economic freedom and equality of our people. In his address to the first Congress of MPLA on 12 December 1977 he said:
“We visualise a South Africa in which the people shall govern, in which the wealth of the country shall be restored to the people and where the land shall be shared among those who work it.”
Inspired by these words, we have therefore dedicated ourselves to radical socio-economic transformation, with an emphasis on the need to achieve economic emancipation.
Education is the most powerful weapon towards economic freedom. Government has taken reasonable and practical measures in ensuring that young people are enrolled in schools and study in decent schools and not mud schools and other inappropriate structures.
Through the Education Infrastructure Grant and the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, more new schools have been built, refurbishments made and new school furniture delivered.
For the current financial year, government has allocated 12 billion rand in total to improve our schools infrastructure needs.
Many learners come from poor homes where they go to school without having had something to eat. It is for this reason that we started the National School Nutrition Programme, which benefits nine million learners from twenty one thousand schools per day to improve their performance in class. For the current financial year, government will spend some 6.8 billion rand on the nutrition scheme.
We appreciate the gradual improvements in our matric pass rate each year, and invest in mathematics, science and technology teaching in order to improve the country’s performance in these critical fields.
As part of building our new nation, we also want our youth, black and white, to be conversant and proficient in African languages, which define their identity as South Africans and Africans.
In this regard, government is introducing the incremental use of African languages in schools on a compulsory basis.
Beyond matric, Government wants our youth to access higher education, regardless of the economic status of their families.
Since its inception, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme has disbursed more than seventy two billion rand in loans and bursaries to students from poor households.
More than two million students currently continue to receive NSFAS funding at our tertiary institutions including those at the Technical, Vocational Education and Training colleges.
This contribution by government is an important foothold onto which a more expanded and inclusive funding model can be found.
We await the findings of the Heher Commission of Inquiry with great interest in advising us on the funding of higher education, which is an apex priority for the democratic government.
Fellow South Africans,
Our National Development Plan outlines the vision we have of a growing economy which must create jobs for our people.
Ultimately, a growing economy is our most potent solution against youth unemployment. We are going through a difficult period in the economy currently which sluggish growth and also the recent downgrades of our investment grade as a country.
Government will be meeting with business before the end of June so that together we can discuss ways of further igniting confidence in our economy and growth.
Whilst we may have differences on some issues currently, we need to put the country first and through working together, solutions can be found.
Government is also playing its part to empower young people and cushion them from the harsh impact of the economic situation, through creating job opportunities, training opportunities and also providing funding support for those who want to open businesses.
There are various programmes already within government’s Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development Cluster towards youth empowerment, at the national level, while provinces and municipalities have various programmes in place as well.
Since the launch of the Expanded Public Works Programme EPWP Phase 3 in April 2014, over 1.2 million work opportunities have been taken up by the youth out of the 2.6 million work opportunities created by the programme.
In the current 2017/18 financial year, the Expanded Public Works Programme aims to create more than seven hundred thousand work opportunities for youth through the four sectors of the programme namely infrastructure, social sector, non-state, environmental and culture sectors.
To mention a few examples of interventions, the Department of Environmental Affairs will prioritise the placement of young women in the environmental sector and will also invest one point five billion rand to reach thirty five thousand young people in various projects.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will support youth owned enterprises through the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme and the Ilima Letsema programmes.
The Department of Communications in collaboration with the Department of Public Works will train more than two thousand youth to help install Set Top Boxes to enable Digital Migration.
The Department of Trade and Industry through the Monyetla Work Readiness programme aims to provide training to six thousand young people to position South Africa as a preferred off-shore location for call centres or Business Process operations.
Through the Department of Human Settlements, over five hundred host employers in the Real Estate Sector will absorb over eight thousand unemployed youth and graduates to take up opportunities in real estate.
The Department of Energy will train young people as installers for the Solar Water Heater programme.
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform will continue implementing the National Rural Youth Service Corp and Youth Brigade programme focusing on agriculture, construction and engineering sectors through the training of 400 youth.
The Department of Water and Sanitation continues to train young people as plumbers and artisans to participate in the programme of preventing water leaks in municipalities.
As part of driving economic emancipation, the National Youth Development Agency has been directed to focus on promoting youth entrepreneurship and the improved coordination of the National Youth Service across all sectors of government.
In the current financial year, the Agency will invest seventy two million rand in the economic participation programmes.
Eighteen thousand young and aspiring entrepreneurs will receive business support services such as vouchers, the registration of new companies, mentorship, and training at different levels, to encourage advancement of the entrepreneurship agenda.
To enable a wider reach, the NYDA will open four new branches over the next two years in Ekurhuleni, Richards Bay, OR Tambo region in the Eastern Cape and Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, which shall extend its services to more young people.
Furthermore, the NYDA has positively responded to the call of young people and all branches shall be equipped with free Wi-Fi services to provide young people with access to technology.
The NYDA will continue to prioritise education as well, and the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund supports five hundred students annually.
Government will continue to monitor the implementation of all programmes aimed at supporting young people, through a Committee of Deputy Ministers led by the Deputy Minister in the Presidency Mr Buti Manamela. The committee reports directly to the President.
The Deputy Ministers work with youth representatives who are members of the Presidential Youth Working Group. We will soon issue a public call for youth organisations to nominate members to serve on the Presidential Youth Working Group so that we can add more youth formations to this important body.
Let me today emphasise the need for young people to seize the opportunities provided by government to help them establish their own businesses.
I am happy today to host a few young trailblazers and achievers who prove that it is possible to succeed in South Africa for young people. Some are job creators in their own right, employing other young people.
They prove that there is a lot of talent and excellence among the youth in South Africa. I would like to introduce these role models who represent many others in many communities.
We have a young man who invented the dry bath at the age of 17 and is the founder and managing director a company that manufactures the dry bath technology, Ludwick Marishane from Cape Town.
We have a young entrepreneur from Tembisa in the East Rand, Gauteng, who owns a company that manufactures branding materials, Bulelani Balabala.
We have the founder of a company that manufactures assistive devices for cancer and burn victims, Ms Nneile Nkholise from Thaba Nchu in the Free State.
More young people are becoming doctors and specialists at a young age in our country. We are proud to host an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist who is also a lecturer and director of the Wits University Obstetrics and Gynaecology Clinical Research Division at the age 34, Dr Salome Maswime from Midrand in Gauteng.
We have a young person who runs an organisation that creates hand crafted fun products made out of natural fabrics and African prints, Ms Ashle Skaftouros from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.
I am also hosting a young person who invented a 15-in-1 microwave oven, an electronic Vuvuzela and an auto shoe polisher, Sir Stuart Ntlathi from Klerksdorp in the North West.
We are happy to introduce the founder and owner of a shoe repair and manufacturing business in Bloemfontein, Free State, Ms Angela Mkhabela.
We have a young entrepreneur whose business offers a variety of services such as IT support, network design and cyber security, and currently employs 27 people, Shadrack Sithole from Randburg in Gauteng.
We have two young people who own a catering and canteen services business which employs twenty young people, Bulelani Tembe and Lungile Mthethwa from Tembisa in the East Rand.
Also in the catering business, is a young man who runs a mobile kitchen that employs two people in Stanger, KwaZulu-Natal, Thamsanqa Gcaba.
We have a young woman who runs a cooking, retail and culinary school start-up business which also provides kitchen accessories, Mogau Seshoene from Tshwane, Gauteng.
We also have in our midst, a young person whose company stops water leaks from toilets, Paseka Lesolang.
We have the co-founder and chairwoman of Raise the Children International, a non-profit organisation that identifies self-motivated orphans from impoverished and rural communities for support, Lesego Serolong.
There are many many more outstanding young people who are engineers, plumbers, farmers, builders, electricians, teachers, nurses, police officers and a host of other careers. We urge all our youth to go out and find their own opportunities and urge government and the private sector in every province, to support these young go-getters.
We also urge the private sector to open more opportunities and employ young people as interns so that they can gain much needed experience and skills. Many young are sitting at home with qualifications. All who are in management positions in various companies and the public sector must make it their responsibility to appoint young people as interns each year and give our youth a head start in life.
A successful youth is a healthy youth. We are concerned about the high HIV infection rate in the youth age cohort of ages between 16 and 25 mainly. We therefore urge young people to support various initiatives of the Department of Health, such as the DREAMS and Phila Campaigns to fight HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis.
Let me also take this opportunity to appeal to the youth to join the fight against the abuse of women and children. Our country reels from one shock after another with regard to callous criminality against women and children. We urge the youth to help us fight against this scourge, working together with Government and community structures.
We also urge the youth to join the war against the abuse of alcohol and drugs which are tearing families apart and destroying the lives of our young people. We must defeat nyaope, whoonga, dagga and all substances that seek to derail the march of our youth to a better future.
Importantly, the youth, black and white, should join the battle against racism in the country and to build a truly united, nonracial society.
The town of Coligny here in North West lost a young person, Matlhomola Moshoeu, who was brutally murdered. The circumstances of this murder will be determined by the courts and we should allow the law to take its course.
His death must unite the people of Coligny in the determination to defeat racism, working together.
We hold the June 16 commemoration in Ventersdop, which has had its own sad history of negative race relations given the influence of some former resident of this town.
At the same time, Ventersdorp has a positive history because Uncle JB Marks is now buried here.
Let us build a nonracial town where South Africans respect one another and build a better future together, in the memory of Oliver Tambo and JB Marks.
Fellow South Africans, especially the youth,
Let me reiterate that education is the key to a brighter future. Our message to the youth is study, read and be knowledgeable so that you can lead the country into the future.
Study and gain the skills you need to become successful industrialists, farmers and professionals in various fields, and achieve the economic freedom that your forebears were unable to achieve.
In this way you will pay fitting tribute to the 1976 generation.
I wish you all a meaningful and successful National Youth Day.
I thank you!