On Youth Day, 16 June, we look back to the 1976 Soweto Uprisings led by students against the forced use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in black schools.
Thousands of students from different schools took to the streets of Soweto to express their anger on that fateful day.
Exactly how many students lost their lives during the protests seems unclear to this day, but estimates range from 24 to over 700, with 174 as the number most often quoted. Hector Pieterson, shot by the South African Police and photographed by Sam Nzima as he was rushed to hospital in the arms of fellow protester Mbuyisa Makhubo, became the icon of the protests, causing international outrage and condemnation of the apartheid government.
Today South African youths have a different focus. From fighting a racist regime that pushed separation and discrimination they are now fighting for work opportunities and a chance to contribute to the country’s economy.
Youth unemployment remains a ticking timebomb. In the first quarter of 2019 an estimated 55,2% of the youth who are eligible or qualified for work were unemployed and cannot find employment. South Africa leads the world with its number of unemployed youths, followed by Spain at 33,7%.
These statistics are shocking for a developing country that is only 25 years into democracy.
The youth has been responsible for some major changes we see in the world today. We cannot undermine the power, strength and position the youth hold in our societies as the leaders of tomorrow. They must be given opportunities to prove themselves and reach their full potential, which is very difficult when you are hungry and stressed about the low number of available jobs.
President Ramaphosa was aware of this problem when he set up his cabinet for the 6th parliament. He expanded the Department of Labour, which now has a branch that focuses specifically on employment. Minister Thulas Nxesi was put in charge of the ministry. It is not clear what the branch will be doing as Nxesi has yet to outline the way forward, however, it seems government has now committed to playing an active role in job creation.
UASA will support any government unemployment alleviation initiative that creates an environment conducive for business to thrive so we can have jobs. We trust this new branch of the Ministry of Labour will not only focus on laws and enforcing policies but will excel as a major player that engages actively with the workforce and business to create jobs for our youth.
Labour, business and the government must stand together in finding solutions to the unemployment crisis. A hungry and frustrated youth does not bode well for the future stability of our country. We need to build a future with and for the youth by laying a proper foundation of education and a growing economy to create the work opportunities they deserve and need to become respected leaders of the future.
For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview, contact Stanford Mazhindu at 074 978 3415.