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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Forward to the new struggle of the youth!
Forward to the Volunteer Youth Corps!
I thank you.