AS WE celebrate the 46th anniversary of the Soweto youth uprising of 16 June 1976, we need to take a moment to reflect on the journey we have travelled to emancipate the young people of this country. As a former youth leader, I draw inspiration from the slogan “nothing for us without us”. This sends a strong message to government that there should be no decision taken for young people without consulting them. However, on the other hand, if we are to progress, young people of this country need to consider government as an ally of development.
In the past we have witnessed young people resorting to burning of schools, blockading roads, and destroying infrastructure to voice their frustrations or to communicate their ideas. The time has now come for young people to realise that government is not their enemy but a willing partner to transform their ideas to reality and to change their lives for the better. As a caring government, we are actively implementing radical socio-economic transformation that is not only aimed at prioritizing the youth but also women, people with disabilities, and military veterans. It is through this policy that we are allocating 30 percent of the Municipality’s procurement spend to them. In a country where youth unemployment has reached 65.6 percent, we are heartened of the City’s efforts to offer bursaries and work experience to youth.
The Municipality’s work readiness programme has resulted in the City absorbing 900 graduates every year with a total budget of R43 million for a period of two years. Some of these graduates have gone on to secure permanent jobs with the Municipality while others are making their mark in the private sector. As much as we understand that government must play a pivotal role in fighting the scourge of unemployment, we believe that entrepreneurship and innovation will significantly reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
Our role as government is to create a conducive environment for entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive, thus creating economic growth will not only result in creating jobs but also securing the future for the youth of this country. Addressing youth unemployment in the country cannot be the responsibility of government alone. We need the private sector to complement government’s efforts to create job opportunities and support entrepreneurs who will also aid in creating employment. Government’s role is not only creating employment but also to ensure an enabling environment for the private sector to create jobs.
This is the why after the July unrest, our focus has been on saving jobs. In our efforts to continue making education fashionable, in the next financial year, we have allocated R58 million to assist deserving graduates to further their studies at various institutions of higher learning. This was inspired by the wise words of our first black head of state and the first democratically elected President Nelson Mandela who once said: “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.” The time has come for young people to lead from the front.