We are marking this year’s National Youth Day by commemorating the 40th anniversary of the June 16, 1976 student uprising.
The country is celebrating the heroism of students who stood up to the apartheid state as they fought for their rights and the liberation of their country from racial oppression and subjugation.
We are also today reflecting on the achievements, challenges and opportunities facing the current generation of young people, under the theme; Youth Moving South Africa Forward.
Lamaqhawe ayefunda ezikoleni zalapha eSoweto, ko- Madibane High, Morris Isaacson High, Phefeni High, Naledi High nezinye, akhombisa isibindi esiyisimanga, abhekana ngqo namaphoyisa ombuso wengcindezelo.
The apartheid regime had issued a decree for Afrikaans to become a medium of instruction in all schools.
Students revolted not only against the imposition of Afrikaans but against Bantu education because they knew it was inferior and that it was designed to prepare them to be drawers of water and hewers of wood.
The apartheid ideology espoused that whites were by nature superior and that blacks were inherently inferior.
The architect of institutionalised racism, Hendrik Verwoerd, the then Minister of Native Affairs had clearly expressed the regime’s views about black people and their future.
He had said;
“There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour…
“ What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd. Education must train people in accordance with their opportunities in life, according to the sphere in which they live.”
On the 16th of June 1976, thousands of students gathered at school assemblies across Soweto for a protest march to Orlando Stadium.
Heavily armed police opened fire on the students as they were marching peacefully and refused to disperse.
Fifteen year Hastings Ndlovu and 12 year old Hector Pietersen were the first to be brutally killed by the police. The death increased. We salute all those who fell in this battle, and not only the two young heroes.
The names of all are engraved at the Hector Peterson memorial for generations to know and appreciate their sacrifice. We pay tribute to the leaders of the march and all student activists of that year. We warmly welcome the veterans and the members of the June 16 Foundation at this commemoration today.
Scores of student activists went into exile fleeing police brutality.
Others sadly died in foreign lands, leaving families in anguish, such as Tsietsi Mashinini. Many were imprisoned for long periods such as Khotso Seathlolo and others.
Others went missing such as Mbuyisa Makhubu who is in the iconic picture taken by photographer Sam Nzima, in which he is seen carrying Hector Petersen, with his sister Antoinette Sithole running frantically next to them.
We salute the journalists who covered the uprising under difficult conditions, for generations to see what happened in June 1976.
Indeed our freedom was not free. Many paid a heavy price for it. Many lives were destroyed. Many lives were lost.
We welcome the fact that many student leaders of the June 16 generation are today contributing to the country’s socio-economic transformation in various fields.
We salute the parents and community leaders who supported the students – mama Albertina Sisulu, mama Winnie Mandela, the leadership of the then Black Parents Association, the Soweto Committee of Ten and other structures.
We acknowledge the contribution of the doctors, nurses and other health professionals who treated the injured, and the religious leaders who provided pastoral care and leadership.
We also acknowledge the 400 white students from Wits University who marched in solidarity with the Soweto students, demonstrating the non-racial nature of our struggle.
We have come a long way indeed as a country and as a nation since June 1976.
The struggle and sacrifices of the class of 1976 were not in vain. We proudly defeated Verwoerd and his racist ideology and ushered in a free and democratic South Africa in 1994.
We now live in a constitutional democracy, with a Constitution that enshrines the rights of all, regardless of race, colour or creed.
Race no longer determines where one lives or where one goes to school or church, or what work one can do.
Black people no longer have to carry passes or seek permits to live and work in urban areas.
Indeed there are no longer public amenities that are designated for certain race groups only, such as beaches or public transport. These are all examples of the manifestations of the institutionalised racism that we lived through, which made South Africa the skunk of the world.
Today we live in a vibrant democracy and we have worked hard to build strong democratic state strong institutions.
The three arms of the state – the executive, parliament and the judiciary perform their tasks cooperatively, advancing democracy and promoting the rights of our people.
Our constitution also creates the Chapter 9 institutions which protect our democracy, such as the South African Human Rights Commission, Commission on Gender Equality, the Office of the Public Protector, the Commission for the protection of religious, cultural and linguistic communities, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Auditor-General.
We live in a country where freedom of expression, association and of the media are enshrined in the Constitution, where we know we will not be shot and killed for staging a peaceful march to state our grievances.
Today we also live in a country where government has a systematic, continuous clear programmes of providing basic services that improve the quality of life to our people.
Millions of people now have access to water, electricity, housing, hospital care, quality education, and other services which has led to an improvement in the quality of life.
We are aware that some people are still waiting for these services given the backlogs.
Impilo isingcono kakhulu kubantu kusukela ku 1994. Kulabo izidingo ezingakafiki kubona, siyeza. Ngeke uhulumeni wentando yeningi aphumule bengakazitholi bonke abantu izidingo.
South Africa is indeed a much better place than it was when the students stood up and said enough is enough in June 1976!
But the struggle continues, we will never rest until we achieve a more equal society and prosperous society, and a society without poverty and unemployment.
By denying the majority of the population quality education, the apartheid regime disadvantaged the country and the South African economy immensely.
Given the usage of education as an instrument of subjugation by the apartheid regime, the democratic government decided to make education an instrument of liberation.
Education is an apex priority and receives the biggest chunk of the national budget.
Each year we build new schools and refurbish others, to improve the learning environment. Government has built seven hundred and ninety five schools since 2009, at a cost of 23 billion rand.
We have built seventy eight new libraries in addition to three hundred and four that have been upgraded.
To improve access to education, At least 80% of our public schools are now no-fee schools and nine million children are exempted from paying school fees. In this way the country is making progress with regards to free basic education for the poor and the working class. Poverty must not prevent a child from obtaining an education.
Nine million children also receive free meals at school, as hunger must not prevent children from poor households from performing at their optimal level in school.
Government is also building three new universities and twelve technical education colleges to expand access to higher education.
Moving with the times, government is also investing more and more in information and communication technologies in education.
Right here in Gauteng, children were offered tablets to promote E-learning in our schools.
At the national level we promote access to Information and Communication Technologies in all schools nationwide, through our Operation Phakisa programme aimed at fast-tracking the delivery of government programmes linked to the National Development Plan.
Government is also increasing funding for education.
The National student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for training at vocational training colleges known as TVET colleges has increased from three hundred and eighteen million rand in 2010 to two point three billion rand in 2016.
The objective is to promote technical education and provide more electricians, welders, plumbers and other artisans for the economy.
Access to NSFAS at universities and universities of technology also increases each year.
We appeal to defaulting NSFAS beneficiaries to play their part and make re-payments to the fund once they start working, so that other students can also be assisted.
We know that many more students are still struggling to afford tertiary education because they come from poor families.
We appointed a judicial Commission to look into the feasibility of free higher education for the country. I look forward to receiving the Commission’s report and recommendations.
In paying tribute to the class of 1976, we urge our youth to make education their apex priority too. Nothing must distract you from obtaining education.
As government and communities, we must all play our part to make schools safer and conducive to learning and teaching. We thus need to address the problem of violence in some of our schools.
Learners have been attacked and killed in some schools. There have also been cases of teachers being attacked by learners, or teachers attacking learners.
There is also the prevalent problem of bullying in some schools, which can have a very detrimental effect on learners who are victims and others who witness the abuse of others.
Udlame ezikoleni luyinkinga enkulu. Kunezingane ezifika nezikhali esikoleni zihlukumeze ezinye kanye nothisha.
Lenkinga idinga ukubambisana kubazali, othisha, umphakathi namaphoyisa, senze izikole ziphephe, nezingane zifunde kahle ezikoleni.
Another serious and very painful matter affecting our youth is the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Indications are that between 7,5% and 31 percent of South Africans have an alcohol problem or are at risk.
Some children dodge school and are seen drinking at taverns in school uniforms.
We welcome and support the campaign by the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) against alcohol abuse and the wearing of school uniforms in taverns.
We urge local authorities not to grant liquor licences to outlets that sell liquor to school children, or who operate near schools, clearly targeting schoolchildren as customers. Such licences must be reviewed.
We have a duty to protect our children.
On drugs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report of 2014 indicated that more than two hundred and seventy thousand South African citizens were defined as problem drug users.
The abuse of drugs is threatening to destroy many families.
Some parents live in fear of their children who terrorise them and neighbours, due to the abuse of nyaope, whoonga, cocaine, heroin and other drugs.
We appeal to our youth to say NO to drugs.
Those who are already addicted should seek treatment. Government is building treatment centres in every province, to make treatment accessible.
We thank all young people who have sought treatment. The report from the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use indicates that the following numbers of young people received treatment between January and June 2015, from the ages of 10 to 39;
Three thousand six hundred and seventy seven in Gauteng from the age of 10 to 39, two thousand eight hundred and sixty nine in the Western Cape, ninety three in Limpopo and Mpumalanga and two hundred and ninety in the Eastern Cape.
We urge parents and communities to encourage more drug users to seek help.
We urge stakeholders and communities to use the International Day Against Drug Abuse on the 26th of June to raise awareness against this scourge and support that is provided to addicts.
Sixwayisa labo abadayisela izingane utshwala kanye nezidakamizwa ukuthi baphula umthetho futhi babulala isizwe. Kumele baboshwe babhadle ejele.
Umphakathi mawubambisane nabazali namaphoyisa zibanjwe lezizigilamkhuba.
We also need to protect our youth especially young women and girls, from abuse and exploitation through new shocking phenomena in our country such as the so-called sex parties or sex stokvels known as the Mavuso.
Patrons at taverns take young women home overnight at a price announced at the tavern.
We cannot and should not subject our children to this abuse and danger.
The long-term impact on their lives, and also on our successful fight against HIV and AIDs is too ghastly to contemplate. Government will soon launch a campaign targeting young women, to educate them against such practices.
We also need to educate men against using women as objects in this manner.
I also wish to remind South African youth to uphold values that we hold dear as a nation, such as Ubuntu and respect.
Decent human beings respect one another, regardless of age. Even if they disagree, they do so with respect and dignity.
Hooliganism and thuggery do not build nations.
Sikhumbuza intsha ukuthi inhlonipho ibaluleke kakhulu. Hloniphani abazali, othisha bese nihloniphana nani futhi, ukuze nibe abaholi abaqotho bakusasa.
Isizwe esiphilayo isizwe esakhiwe ngenhlonipho, hayi ngobuxhwanguxhwangu.
Sizobe siwahloniphile amaqhawe ka-June 16, 1976 uma sihloniphana, sihloniphe nezwe lethu elihle.
I wish raise the matter of violent community protests again, as these are threatening to destroy the social fabric of our society.
We should remember that not a single school was burned during the June 16, 1976 student uprising.
Sadly, we have seen horrible incidents in recent times. Students have done the unthinkable, and burned university buildings on some campuses and destroyed other facilities and furniture, just to communicate that they cannot afford the fees.
That conduct is unforgivable and totally unacceptable.
The nation recently faced the horror of the burning of more than 20 schools in Vuwani, Limpopo by people who are unhappy about being made part of another municipality.
We congratulate COSAS for their recent very successful and important march against the burning of schools by parents.
Another community decided to burn a local clinic which serves them, to demonstrate their unhappiness that it had electricity while the township experienced an electricity outage.
The burning of trains to demonstrate unhappiness when they arrive late is another shocking behaviour in this country.
While we thought that was shocking, others in KZN burned factories which provide employment to the community, to demonstrate unhappiness with a local councillor.
Such actions give an impression that we are going astray as a nation. There can be no justification for such violence in a country, where unlike in June 1976, we have access to government at three spheres to communicate our grievances peacefully.
We need to undertake some serious introspection, and to come up with solutions as a nation.
Asenze izinto ngendlela. Kuyathusa ukuthi abantu bashise izikole, amafemu, imitholampilo, ngisho nezitimela imbala ngoba bethukuthele. Konke lokhu kusibuyisela emuva.
Masibambisane sakhe izwe lethu. Uma kunezinkinga, mazixoxwe zixazululwe kahle. Udlame alwakhi.
Sikhathazeke kakhulu sonke ukuthi isimo somnotho ezweni senza kube nzima ukuthi intsha ithole imisebenzi.
We need the economy to grow so that jobs can be created, especially for our youth.
Towards this goal, government continues to implement programmes aimed at promoting confidence in the economy, working with labour and business.
Recently we have seen new investments by companies in the country, such as Toyota, BMW, Nestle, Mercedes Benz, Dursots and All Joy and others. These investments demonstrate confidence in our country and the economy.
We will continue our programmes of removing obstacles to investments and to work with labour and business as we re-ignite growth.
We are working in a difficult climate as the situation is negative globally as well.
We encourage young people to open up their own small businesses as well as the democratic government has created opportunities for support by many agencies within government.
For example, a lot has been achieved in the past five years by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) on education and skills development and in supporting young entrepreneurs.
Government departments nationally and provincially, and municipalities as well, have also been directed to support youth businesses in every possible way.
Work opportunities are also provided through the Expanded Public Works Programme, targeting women, youth and persons with disabilities. These include environmental programmes Working on Fire, Wetlands, Water and others.
Our biggest challenge is that young people do not know about the services that government offers.
It is for this reason that during this youth month, various government departments are holding exhibitions and roadshows to showcase the services that they provide.
As said earlier, the theme of National Youth Day is Youth Moving South Africa Forward.
In line with the theme, we are proudly joined by some young achievers who are our special guests today, who give us hope that our future is in good hands.
The June 16 generation made it possible for them to sit here today, as young professionals in a free and democratic South Africa.
Some of the young women are in careers that were previously viewed as male domains.
We have the Chief Executive Officer of Bertha Gxowa Hospital in Johannesburg, Dr Nokwethemba Mtshali-Hadebe, who is the youngest hospital chief executive in the country.
We have a Software developer who produces defensive strategies to prevent cyber-attacks, Ms Angel Shozi.
We welcome Ms Dorcas Modise, a chemical engineer at Eskom.
We have Ms Zinhle Yende, a plumber, who is part of the Department of Water and Sanitation’s War on Leaks Programme.
We welcome the award winning musician and rap artist, and winner of the Song of the Year at the South African Music Awards this month, Mthembeni “Emtee” Ndevu.
Phuti Chelopo has a master of science in medical science, and focuses on the use of nano-medicine for drug delivery purposes.
We have a number of young entrepreneurs – Mr Thabiso Mncwabe and Mr Zenzele Dlomo manufacture toilet paper, Sofia Stodel manufactures leather goods, Sandile Shezi is a forex trader, Tlabu Diseko produces aluminium products, and windows as well as Makheda Khoza who runs a cooperative which produces cooking oil and beauty products from Marula plant extracts.
These young people have become job creators and employ other young people.
We are also hosting the winner of the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Theatre, Ms Jade Bowers.
In the arts, we also have a film director produces films, reality shows, documentaries and other forms of entertainment, Ms Noxolo Mthethwa.
We have a mechanical engineer, who has worked in a number of power stations and fields, Mr Luvuyo Feni.
We are also hosting a chemical engineering technician, Mr Siyabonga Gift Xaba.
We have a creative designers, Andile Dyalvane.
We urge learners to emulate them and ensure that we produce more and more skills that are needed by the economy and to also skills that enrich our culture and heritage.
Freedom has opened up opportunities for our sports teams to compete abroad.
We are proud to announce that we will be sending Team South Africa to the Rio Summer Olympics and Paralympics in August and September. We wish them all the best.
On the 3rd of August we go to the polls to elect new municipal representatives.
We urge the youth to come out in their thousands to exercise this right that many died for.
Let me reiterate that we urge the current generation to pay tribute to Hector Peterson, Tsietsi Mashinini, Khotso Seatlholo, Mbuyiselo Makhubu, Hastings Ndlovu and many others by prioritising education.
We are looking up to you as the youth, to move South Africa forward, and that you will do, armed with the most powerful weapon of all, education.
Cde.Jacob Zuma is President of the Republic of South Africa and ANC President