“The children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future” -OR Tambo.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am most grateful and humbled for this opportunity to speak to young people especially at this critical time in our country’s history. I have deliberately chosen to recall Oliver Tambo’s words about the role and centrality of the youth in the destiny of any nation because those words are true today as they were, those many years ago.
President Tambo teaches us to appreciate and value the contribution of young people so that they are better prepared to take their rightful place as future leaders of society. Himself an accomplished young person of his time, he led by example and took giant strides in his contribution to both his personal development and the advancement of the freedom struggle of the African people.
He was 25, when he graduated with a BSc degree in the same year that he became Chairperson of the students committee at the University Of Fort Hare, he was only 27 when he became the first secretary of the ANC Youth League in 1944 and at the tender age of 30, he became a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC. At the age of 35, together with his long-time friend and comrade, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo established the first black law firm in South Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we meet here today at a time when we are celebrating the life and legacy of OR Tambo, we must be inspired by his courage as a leader, teacher, a devout Christian, revolutionary and campaigner for human rights. We must draw from his enduring wisdom which in many ways shaped the course of our people’s fight for freedom. Tambo knew that young people are at the heart of the future of South Africa and that every effort had to be made to allow the youth to realise their true potential.
South Africa’s history has also been driven in good measure by the sterling contribution of its young people through the Soweto uprising of 1976, which poses a challenge to us as the youth of today to carry on the legacy of that struggle. Those who came before us paved the way and gave us inspiration that we can achieve great things by dedication and commitment.
History presents us with countless examples about the role that the youth has played all over the world in shaping historical cause and development: the following are a few examples of the pivotal role that the youth has played in shaping humanity’s history.
1. Musawenkosi Donia Saurombe became Africa’s youngest most educated person with a PHD at the age of 23.
2. Our own Charlotte Maxeke became the first African woman graduate at the age of 27.
3. Karl Marx was only 30 when he wrote the world famous Communist Manifesto.
4. Steve Biko started writing his frank talk articles at the age of 24.
5. Che Guevara and Fidel Castro marched to liberate Havana in their early 20s
6. Hector Peterson took an Apartheid bullet at the tender age of 12.
These should inspire us as the youth of this part of the world to strive for the best and take our rightful place in history. For our part as government, we should strengthen the tools for youth development and ensure that we prioritise the needs of young people with respect to education, health and well-being, economic participation and social cohesion.
I am acutely aware of the challenges that face the youth not only in this area but the entire South Africa. About a year ago, Statistics South Africa released the Social Profile of Vulnerable Groups Report which includes the state of youth unemployment and vulnerability in the economy.
That report indicated that the unemployment rate of the youth in South Africa stands at 60% (this is out of 50 million people with a 40% youth component). The report also stated that the level of education for the vulnerable youth has been decreasing and there are more drop outs from tertiary education than in 1994.
The Report painted a dim picture of the future especially given the fact that the youth are a dominant population section of society and therefore bear more the brunt of poverty, unemployment and inequality. At a global level, in 2013, the International Labour Organisation estimated that, 73.4 million young people who want to work and actively looking for a job cannot find one. So the problems facing the youth are both real and urgent. This calls on all of us to roll up our sleeves and work hard to confront these challenges.
Today I am joined by executives of entities who are under my executive authority partly to popularise the programs of these entities in this community but most importantly to expose opportunities that exist for youth empowerment in the sector. The communications space has a lot of opportunities for career development and youth advancement in general.
We are working tirelessly to transform the sector especially as it relates to patterns of ownership in media. It is imperative that in the process of dealing with media and diversity issues, we prioritise the skills development initiatives for the youth. I am hopeful that through these exhibitions and information sessions that will be conducted by these entities, you will identify strategic opportunities for future career development.
I am also happy to announce that through the help of these entities, we will be donating vouchers of more than R50 000.00 towards the victims of fire that ravaged the families in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, the donation will go to Kurland Township. This humble contribution is meant to relieve the families of the pain of loss caused by this fire but also an attempt help them begin a new start in their lives. I will also be visiting some families who suffered this gruesome loss as part of our community work and relationship building in this area.
Ladies and Gentlemen I would like to conclude by reminding ourselves that fire safety is everyone’s concern. We should all take part in programs that educate our community about fire safety and other hazards in our households and community at large. Another important reminder is that October is Transport Month, which is a program to heighten awareness about the importance of our development efforts on issues of transport.
I want to urge you once again that road safety is a key concern for all of us and the youth needs to take an active part in programs that educate the community about road safety. I Thank you