Address at the National Youth Day Celebrations, 16 June 2002

It has been 26 years since the youth of South Africa marched in all parts of the country on a lonely journey for a better education, a transformed South Africa.

Many of those who bravely took that journey did not live to see a free South Africa, but died as young as they were on their freedom march. Many others were imprisoned because of their efforts.

On this day, we salute them, the children of 1976, who gave their lives so that we and future generations of South Africans could free ourselves from the yoke of apartheid, establish a new democratic order and live together in peace and harmony.

The fruits of their journey is our democracy. For the youth of our country, together with the workers, the women, the religious leaders in all the various organizations of our people, in all our political movements both inside the country and in exile, played their part in our national liberation struggle.

But democracy is only the beginning of a new journey that the South African youth, the South African people must take towards a common destiny.

The critical question, however, is what are the challenges that our youth face today. Do we all have a common understanding and vision of the struggles into which the energies of the youth need to be channeled?

Today, the struggle continues, but the enemy has changed.

The enemy now is homelessness, hunger, poverty, in the many forms that they manifest themselves.

It is this struggle that should now challenge the youth, in all their formations, to wake up in the morning and begin every single day with more determination than ever before to make a mark in this new struggle.

Indeed, this is the historic challenge that faces us today. It is a challenge that we dare not fail in meeting. It is a site of struggle wherein the youth should take their rightful place.

None dare challenge the youth when they dig trenches, as indeed they should, in the frontline of this crusade against hunger and poverty!

For it is this battle that will take us to the destination of sustained development and prosperity for our people.

In practical ways, the youth of our country must seek to develop themselves so as to work in more effective and efficient ways towards a new reality.

This can be achieved through youth empowerment, through programmes such as the contact, information and career counselling programme of the Umsobomvu Fund which is aimed at providing information and support regarding careers;
The skills development of youth continues to be a priority and part of the battle that needs to be fought for the full attainment of our freedom. Hence, the consolidation and further enhancement of the school to work programme which is providing supposkills and knowledge to youth in the targeted areas of Accounting, Banking and Insurance, Engineering Agriculture, and Sports and Entertainment;
We must encourage our youth to enter the business sector earlier in their lives. Thus, various youth entrepreneurship programmes of government are aimed at providing business development services and funding support to young entrepreneurs.
We call upon our youth in all their formations across the country to conscientise themselves about these developments and to play a catalytic role in ensuring that they access these programmes for their communities.

When we call on our youth to be fully part of letsema and to lend a hand and volunteer their services for collective developments, we are saying that they themselves are among the most important agents of change.
Our youth must be conscious participants in community programmes, in caring for the aged and disabled, for those who are suffering from HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

Community youth service is also important because it is through these selfless deeds, that our youth attain technical expertise and life skills, while at the same time, they are developing their communities.

Our youth must be among those who offer their services to government departments to perform volunteer work.
The youth must answer the call for letsema by forming volunteer corps and registering at Provincial Youth Commissions and at local municipalities.
This is a call to battle! A call to join forces in a new struggle towards attaining our developmental goals and arriving at a common destination.

Clearly, this destination must mean an end to homelessness, an end to poverty, an end to disease, to unemployment, to hardship and suffering.

The endpoint of our journey must be the economic recovery of our country and our continent, successful social reconstruction, effective moral regeneration and a flowering of our languages and our culture.

Out of these processes must unfold a new identity of what it means to be South African and African, what it means to be an African youth in the context of the world.

It is to reach this common destination that we are waging this war against poverty and lending a hand for a better life for all. We do this so that the youth, the women, the families of our country may benefit by having housing, clean water, electricity, food to eat, a bed in which to sleep, to contribute to the greater, collective good of all our people, both young and old.

We are transforming this country into something better, providing the necessary policies for change, implementing action plans so that the youth of our country will be able not only to dream at night about a better future but also use knowledge, skills, infrastructure and resources to make that dream of a better life a real and living reality.

When we work actively to end conflicts on the African continent, we want the youth of our country to understand that their development is also inseparably bound to and connected with the development of our continent as a whole. The New Partnership for Africa's Development requires the committed participation of all of Africa's youth to change Africa's present and to shape Africa's future.

The youth ought to be at the vanguard of the popular movement towards Africa's renewal and demonstrate their commitment in education, in health, in addressing unemployment and in skills development.

It in this context that I am pleased that the National Youth Commission in conjunction with the South African Youth Council is organising an African youth indaba on June 28 in Johannesburg where they intend to discuss the role of the youth in NEPAD.

When we celebrate National Youth Day, we are also celebrating the Day of the African Child. It is for these African youth, for this African child, that we must engage in African initiatives, for the African child must grow up in conditions of peace and stability. The African child must inherit good governance, maturing democracy and growing economies.

When we call on our youth to study hard at school, we are saying to them that as we strive to make our country a better place for all who live in it, so too must you prepare now in all your efforts to take over the leadership from us some day and do even more than we are doing now to modernize our economy, to build our society, to make us equal competitors in the global information age.

When we call on our youth to be proud of who they are, to express themselves through arts and cultural programmes, to excel in sporting activities and to engage in debates, we are asking them to contribute to our national culture, to our national intellect, to play their part in projecting South Africa on the world stage.

Through the long years of struggle, the selfsame struggle of the Children of 1976, the youth have been the grease, the fuel that has made it possible for the engine rooms of many revolutions to operate. Their historical role, whenever society has been challenged to embark on critical social change, has been to pave the way for that transformation to take place and to consolidate a new society.

So it was with the youth of the time of the Luthuli detachment, the youth of the June 16 detachment and the young lions of the 1980s. It was also so with the generations of youth before them and it will still be so for the generations to come.

As we honour our youth who braved the streets in 1976, we think also of all those who died at the prime of their lives at the hands of apartheid killers because of their determination and participation in the struggle.

On the night before his murder by the apartheid hangman, a young and brave Solomon Mahlangu comforted his mother and the nation with the words; "Do not cry for me, for my blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of our freedom".

For Solomon Mahlangu, for Hector Petersen, for Steve Biko, for Dulcie September, for all our departed heroes and heroines, the youth of our country must answer the call to take forward the gains of our democracy and to help us to attain our goals of development.

For the sake of our communities, our country and our continent, this call must spread far and wide from here in Thabong and Mankaung, to Inanda, to Mamelodi, to Mafikeng and to Mannenburg.

Let us together lend a hand to broaden access to a better life.

Forward to the new struggle of the youth!

Forward to the Volunteer Youth Corps!

I thank you.

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