Minister in The Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation – Mr Jeff Radebe,
Representative of the Families – Ms Granny Seepe,
Representative of the June 16 Foundation – Mr Oupa Moloto,
MMC for Community Development – Mr Chris Vondo,
CEO of the NYDA – Mr Khathu Ramukumba,
Ladies and gentlemen.
In commemorating the 40th anniversary of June 16, we as a nation must reflect on this historic moment. We will compare our past to our present. That is inevitable. In doing this we must remember that context matters.
The message from the apartheid government was clear on June 16, 1976 – Young people do not matter. They are a threat. Their voices shout destruction to our national order and cannot be heard. They want to change the status quo and we cannot allow that. They will cause disorder and devastation if we do not eliminate the threat that they pose. They are a danger to society.
There was no youth policy that featured black youth. There was no belief in the inherent worth of young people and their creativity, imagination and resilience. There was no active engagement with young people. There were no programmes to unearth the immense potential that youth have. Nothing of the sort for black youth. Instead, sjamboks, beatings, detention, army and police in schools and inferior education were readily provided to black youth.
South Africa is a very different place today. As the government, we see young people as resources to the country.
Our National Youth Policy 2020 characterises youth as assets whose power must be harnessed for the betterment of society. The NYP 2020 recognises that young people need a hand up and not a hand out. The policy is inclusive of all youth while giving priority to the most vulnerable.
The brave, heroic activism of the youth of 1976 and the young lions of the 1980’s paved the way for a youth voice. The voice of the youth has broken through. Today, young people are consulted on key government policies and initiatives. Their voices matter and their views must be heard.
As young people we have a responsibility to understand our past in order to truly comprehend and make sense of our present. We must debunk these fallacies that are tossed around that youth are apathetic and depoliticised. That they are a selfish generation only looking out for themselves. Unfortunately the more these fallacies are told the more they masquerade as the truth. We have a responsibility to shape the future. It is our future.
Sibongile Mkhabela was one of the young leaders within the student movement of 1976. She recently reminded us that South Africans liberated themselves and that there is no liberation movement without the people. “If people don't remember that they freed themselves, they will always be looking for a Messiah", Mkhabela said.
As young people, let us not abandon our own leadership looking for a non-existent messiah to bring us development and freedom. Government is providing opportunities to further one’s education, gain skills, start a business, start an internship, and get involved in youth service and many more. Let us exercise our leadership by grabbing these opportunities during Youth Month and thereafter to better our lives.
I thank you!