Dear comrade President Peter Mokaba,
It is almost 16 years since your heart ceased to beat; your indomitable voice stopped to roar. Your untimely departure from the land of the living to settle permanently in the land of the departed left a huge lacuna in youth activism and radical politics.
As the new generation your political guidance and leadership authority inspired many of us to follow in your footsteps, as footsoldiers to pursue the struggle of young people in South Africa. Let me hasten to indicate that wherever you are in the nooks and crannies of the universe, you remain a source of wisdom, a fountain of political consciousness and a immortal symbol of radicalism.
TOMORROW June 16, marks the 42nd of Soweto students uprisings that signaled a decisive shift in the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa. It was young radicals like Tsietsi Mashinini and host of other students activists that organized one of the biggest protest against imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in Black Township schools. The day’s protest was met with use of brutal force by Apartheid security agencies, and scores of students were shot with live ammunition. The protest was marred by killing of armless students, and Hector Peterson, became symbol of that fateful day through the iconic picture captured by late and departed lensman Sam Nzima.
Comrade President, apology for boring you with this glossy brief historical context since it has a connection to the present day persisting struggles faced by working class and poor youth post the ‘94 democratic breakthrough ushered through the shed of Chris Hani’s selfless blood, and other countless activists who paid the price for a just South Africa. Youth unemployment is a “powder keg” waiting to explode. Our country has the highest number of youth unemployment which poses a threat to our social fiber and efforts to build a “better life for all” as once envisioned by President Nelson Mandela. This makes our country a leading contender of an “Olympic Gold” medal for having a highest number of youth unemployment, followed by Greece 25,2% and Spain 22,2%. This figure makes the National Development Plan (NDP) goal of halving youth unemployment to 6% by year 2030 a mockery.
Not long ago, after a successful transition, necessitated by electoral outcomes of ANC’s 54th National Conference, President Cyril Ramaphosa has prioritized the crisis of youth unemployment. In February 2018, he launched the Youth Employment Service (YES), a collaborative initiative with big business intended to mitigate youth unemployment crisis through job opportunities and skills transfer as dictated by our stubborn economy.
The “New Dawn” as propagated by President Ramaphosa, should be at the centre of its agenda tackle this catastrophic crisis of youth unemployment and deliver decent jobs for the youth, including entrepreneurship participation and opportunities. For this to happen, it requires a decisive shift or break from neo-liberal instruments or tools prescribed by neoliberal embedded World Bank; International Monetary Fund and Rating’s agencies, and adopt radical policies that deliver much needed jobs for our people, especially for the youth.
Whilst bold initiatives by President Ramaphosa are welcomed to deal with unemployment crisis. One of the key proposal, also shared by Left axis in the Alliance, SACP-Cosatu, and supported by the ANC Youth League is for the SA Reserve Bank’s mandate to be redefined to play a more activist, interventionist and developmental role in an effort to fight poverty and struggles to create decent work, as opposed to the status quo of inflation targeting. It is within this context that Reserve Bank should be nationalized so that it plays a more critical role for the overall good of our country and her people, outside the mandate of private interests.
The late Bra Hugh Masekela’s “Send Me” song which has hogged the imagination of society, across racial spectrum, and brought renewed hope or “new dawn” should not send our people into slumber nor deliberately be used to catch votes without any concrete delivery of people’s needs. Unemployment is a serious catastrophe and a “ticking time bomb”, slowly imploding as evidenced by violent service delivery protests or looting of foreign national shops, mainly led by marginalized or excluded youth.
Already the “official” unemployment rate remains at 32,4% amongst 15 – 34 working youth age group. This effectively means a large of young people in rural and urban areas are economically excluded and facing a prospect of a bleak future. The significant number of the unemployed depends for survival or living on grants recipients to make ends meet.
The Jobs Summit becomes another key platform for social partners to meet and explore possible avenues to address the crisis of unemployment and creation of decent jobs for all. For too long Capital has been on a de-investment strike, as part of ill-fated strategy to influence ANC decisions or leadership preferences. The youth must be at the forefront of efforts to find concrete solutions to the crisis of youth unemployment, we should be at the picket line with the unemployed to demands jobs and opulent chambers influencing decisions with the elites. We need to give practical meaning to President Mandela’s assertion “be the scriptwriters of your destiny and feature yourselves as stars that showed the way towards a brighter future”.
Your organization, the ANCYL remains a powerful vehicle to champion a radical agenda to change the lives of young people for the better. Our unflinching commitment to this just cause cannot be sold to the highest capitalists bidders. We remain resolute to make sure that the ANC delivers on it historical mission to build a South Africa as was eloquently depicted by President Oliver Tambo during the inaugural conference of our sister organization MPLA of Angola in 1977, as follows: “We of the African National Congress visualise a South Africa in which the people shall govern, in which the wealth of the country shall be restored to the people and where the land shall be shared among those who work it. We aim to establish in our country a society free of the exploitation of man by man”. We dare not to fail the youth of South Africa.
Thandi Moraka is the ANCYL Deputy Secretary General