President Cyril Ramaphosa says youth unemployment is not insurmountable – urging the youth to take responsibility for their future, like the 1976 generation, and work hard.
Addressing the 45th anniversary, he said Youth Day, held as a hybrid event in Pietermaritzburg, highlighted the progress made in providing various opportunities and skills for youth in the public and private sector.
“Just as the generation of 1976 did, I call on you to take responsibility for your future. This requires focus, patriotism, commitment and consistency. In a word, it requires hard work,” Ramaphosa said.
He raised concern about nearly 64% of South Africa’s youth being unemployed.
“This is something no country can afford. Young people are the force that drives a country and grows its economy,” he said.
Ramaphosa saluted the 1976 heroes who sacrificed their lives for freedom, including Hector Pieterson, who was among those shot dead by the apartheid police; student leaders Tsietsi Mashinini, Mbuyisa Makhubo, Sibongile Mthembu-Mkhabela, Murphy Morobe, Zweli Sizane and Seth Mazibuko.
Other leaders included Khotso Seatlholo, Baby Tyawa, and Enos Ngutshane.
The president said the 1976 youth spurred an international movement for the isolation of the apartheid regime. They lit a fire of resistance that the racist government of Pretoria would not be able to extinguish, no matter how hard they tried.
“When many of our leaders were jailed or exiled, it was young people who showed the world that freedom is not given, but it is taken,” he said.
“We salute them. We owe our liberation to them and to the many others who sacrificed so we could all be free today. South Africa is an infinitely better place than it was in 1976.”
He said young people have opportunities that were denied to their parents and grandparents.
“The challenge of youth unemployment could seem insurmountable. However, we know what we need to do to address it. We know that by providing young people with opportunities for work experience; by supporting them to start and grow their own businesses; by fixing our skills development system; and by creating opportunities for work that serves the common good, we can make inroads into this challenge.”
He mentioned various initiatives, some of which began before the pandemic, including the Presidential Youth Employment Interventions and a range of priority actions to boost youth employment over the next five years.
“To translate potential into opportunity we are very pleased today to officially launch SA Youth, the national pathway management network. This initiative brings together eight government departments… to form a network that will support young people to find pathways into the economy,” he said.