Address at The Youth Day Rally, Witbank, 16th June 2003

Premier of Mpumalanga, Ndaweni Mahlangu,
Our traditional leaders,
MP's, MEC's, MPL's and Councillors,
Leaders of our youth and young South Africans,
People of Witbank and Mpumalanga,
Distinguished Guests,
Members of the media,
Fellow South Africans:

Today, June 16, 2003, which is our Youth Day, marks the 27th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising of 1976. Accordingly, we remember and celebrate the colossal and heroic deeds of the youth of our country in our struggle for liberation.

On this great day in our national life, I am honoured to extend to the youth of our country that continues to be the pride of our nation, the best wishes of our government and people, and our pledge that we will do everything possible to ensure a better future for the children and youth of our country and our continent.

Because of the gallantry and sacrifices of our youth, today we live as a free people, with the possibility to determine our destiny.

All of us will remember that in paying homage to the heroic struggles of the youth and people, we dedicated the year 2002 to the campaign of Vuk'uzenzele and Letsema, so that our people could volunteer and participate in the reconstruction and development of our country.

Through this campaign, we summoned the masses of our people and youth to continue to demonstrate the courage of volunteerism and sacrifice in the face of the challenges that we face - poverty and underdevelopment - which they had shown through a long period of protracted struggle.

As they have done throughout history, the youth of our country responded to this call without any hesitation.

I am happy to see that once more, during this 27th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, the youth of our country have rallied behind the call for "Youth Action to Seize the Opportunities of Democracy" - pushing back the frontiers of poverty under the banner of diverse organisations led by the National Youth Commission, Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the South African Youth Council, which is a broad based youth civil society organisation - comprised of diverse member organisations, political, faith-based, and NGOs servicing youth.

Last year we noted some of the challenges that confront our youth, including:

Youth empowerment;
Skills development;
Youth business support;
The need for information provisioning;
Youth volunteerism; and,
Participation in community youth service development programmes.
As we stand here to commemorate the 27th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, we are pleased with the progress made by our government in most of these areas. Among others, these great strides came about as a result of cooperation between the National Youth Commission, Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the South African Youth Council and the emerging consensus in various societal institutions, that youth development must be central to the overall national agenda.

I am very pleased that earlier this month, the Growth and Development Summit also identified the challenge of youth development and empowerment as one of the central matters on which our country must focus.

On this day, we must reconfirm that we have a common task to implement what we agreed at this Summit with regard to the emancipation of our youth from poverty, unemployment and social marginalisation.

YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT

As part of this, to respond to the challenge of youth empowerment and skills development, government has this year, stated that two youth development programmes shall be considered during the course of 2003. These are the National Youth Service Programme (NYSP) and the Integrated Sustainable Youth Economic Participation Programme.

Already, Cabinet has adopted a policy framework document for the scaling up of the NYSP. Work is commencing in this regard, to put into place an implementation plan which will ensure the launch of the first NYSP programmes by the end of the year.

The NYSP will play a catalytic role in enhancing the skills of our youth whilst they are involved in community development initiatives. The NYSP will complement existing programmes, such as learnerships, social development health, and extended public works programmes.

In addition, Government has announced that it will, by year 2004, recruit 50 000 youth for the learnership programmes.

YOUTH BUSINESS SUPPORT

We all know that young people have no access to finance and business development support. Accordingly, we have to work very hard to encourage financial institutions to implement innovative measures when dealing with our youth, so that young people have the possibility to fully participate in the economy of our country.

We thank and salute the financial institutions that have already responded to this call. The government will work with them to guarantee that together we ensure the success of the youth development programmes they have adopted.

Further, we must ensure that youth development becomes a critical component of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) strategy. Our youth must seize the opportunities arising out of government Land Reform programme, including those that will emerge from the establishment of co-operatives and the availability of micro-credit for development purposes.

Our responsibility as the youth is to seize the opportunities of our democracy. We belief that for youth development and empowerment to be sustainable, young people must be conscious and active participants in the reconstruction and development of our country.

Today, a number of opportunities are being created, and I would like to urge the youth of our country to take advantage of this situation.

In this regard, we should together ensure that we implement Youth ICT Leanerships. Earlier this year, our country held a National Youth Indaba on Information Society to launch the youth ICT programme in line with the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development, as well as the vision of the Vijina (youth) Digital Opportunities Task Force.

This entails access to procurement opportunities, promotion of black economic empowerment in agriculture, contribution towards Land Reform and rural poverty eradication and support to young aspirant farmers so that they can play a meaningful role in agricultural development and economic growth.

As part of the Land Reform programme we have seen the Land Bank availing land to young people for commercial farming in the Northern Cape and North-West Provinces.

I am told that the NYC and Land Bank will soon launch similar projects in the Free State and the Western Cape.

As part of the public works community-based programme, government has availed resources to help young people to participate in the programme to rehabilitate public buildings for the benefit of people with disabilities.

Further, through access to economic opportunities presented by the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, young people will be assisted to have access to finance, business opportunities and requisite education and training opportunities to start and sustain their own businesses.

During this month of June, we have seen another key partner, the Road Accident Fund, recruiting more than 90 young people to be part of their service programme.

Situating youth development at the centre of our national development programme remains critical. This we will do as we accelerate economic growth and development, including black economic empowerment, expand social grants, engage the health challenges facing our people, and fight crime and corruption.

We will continue to expand and improve service delivery through, among others, intensifying the Batho Pele campaign and recruiting community development workers, and continuing to advance women's participation, youth development and the empowerment of people with disabilities.

Together, we must continue to forge a broad youth front for the reconstruction and development, placing at the centre the active participation of people as their own liberators from the yoke of social deprivation and poverty.

The implementation of these tasks requires that the youth, themselves, must play a vitally important role and occupy a special and forward place in the national offensive against poverty

Education remains the key to success and therefore plays a critical role in the advancement and empowerment of the youth, as well as the cultural development of our people.

Again, we call on young people to demonstrate seriousness in pursuing their studies, thus reducing the high rates of school drop-outs and academic exclusions.

Government has and will continue to provide free food to millions of children in schools. We will continue to support historically disadvantaged students through National Student Finance Aid Scheme.

We will continue with other programmes to discourage our youth from involvement in crime and unacceptable social behaviour, inspired by the ideal of the RDP of the soul.

We will continue the struggle for the development of our youth as healthy human beings, free of AIDS and other avoidable illnesses.

We will continue to work to provide the facilities and possibilities for our youth to participate in sport, including representing our country in international competitions.

In this regard, we convey our best wishes to the thousands participating in the Comrades' Marathon. The difficult race the athletes are running reminds all of us that we need the dedication and determination of the long-distance runners to achieve the national goal of the reconstruction and development of our country.

On this occasion, we must also salute and convey our support to the youth of our country who are participating as Bafana Bafana in the competition leading to the African Soccer Cup, the cricketers who are going to England, the players preparing for the World Rugby tournament, the athletes who will represent us in the All Africa Games, the netball team preparing to go to the world games, those who will play in the President's Golf Cup, and the children currently playing in the gold tournament in the United States.

An important task that we continue to face has to do with strengthening the youth development institutions - the South African Youth Council, Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the National Youth Commission.

The following tasks have been identified in this regard:

The need to build the capacity of South African Youth Council to enable it to discharge its responsibilities and to raise its profile in society and, especially, among the youth through ensuring that it implements its programmes, and rally the entire society behind the youth development agenda;

Strengthen the capacity of the National Youth Commission, review its mandate, make sure that the Commission becomes more effective, as well as popularise it among the youth;

Strengthen the capacity of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, raise its profile among the youth and ensure easier access both to information regarding the Fund, including its programmes;

Continue to strengthen the unity of this troika to ensure that its enhanced cooperation does lead to an integrated, sustainable and accelerated youth development perspective and programme;

Encourage a relationship and cooperation between these three organizations and the youth development community-based organisations and NGOs, properly to integrate the public and private youth development programmes and resources; and,

Continue to mobilise political and material resources and other support for these institutions in government, labour, business, community constituencies, and most especially among the youth.

The total freedom of the youth of our country cannot be achieved until all the children of Africa are free from poverty and underdevelopment. South African youth must continue with the process they initiated during the African Youth Dialogue held in the year 2002, of ensuring that youth development is fully incorporated into NEPAD.

Contact between the South African and other youth of the continent is vital so as to participate in the process of African integration and development, as represented by the African Union and its development programme, NEPAD. Young people must be part of the work for the regeneration of Africa and South African youth must work with other young people on the continent to achieve this objective.

On this occasion, we should also pay homage to the fallen heroes and heroines who since 1976, played their part to ensure that today, we enjoy the freedom whose 10th anniversary we will celebrate next year.

They include Tsietsi Mashinini, Hector Peterson, Solomon Mahlangu, Peter Mokaba, Parks Mankahlana, Zibuse Zuma, Vusi Mzimela, Mary Mxadana, Eph Mogale, Mzingisi Skweyiya, Sphiwe Zuma, Jan Madisha and those workers who died in tragic bus accident whilst on their way to the May Day rally in the Free State.

We are confident that, more than ever before, the youth of today are better placed to advance their aspirations and dreams. We are confident that this current generation of young people will inculcate the values that will make all of us to stand tall and proud among the peoples of the world.

Next year, for the third time, our people will participate in democratic elections to choose our national and provincial governments. Between now and then, all of us, including the youth, must work very hard to ensure that the millions of our young people register to vote and actually vote on Election Day.

We must ensure that the youth play their role in terms of determining the future of our country by participating in the elections. In this way, they will play an important role in the construction of the kind of South Africa they will inherit.

On their shoulders will rest the obligation to bring to reality the non-racial, non-sexist, peaceful and prosperous society for which the youth of 1976 sacrificed their lives. That goal can only be achieved is we continue today to put in place the foundation and building blocks that will take us to our destination characterised by the provision of a better life for all.

Our country remains indebted to our youth for the sacrifices that they have made throughout our years of struggle and since. Despite the immense challenges and difficulties of the moment, the future is bright.

The tide has turned! Because of this, let us continue to construct a people's contract for a better tomorrow.

Together, let us march forward with more vigour and determination to succeed in pushing back the frontiers of poverty and creating more opportunities for our youth.

THROUGH OUR ACTIONS TO RECONSTRUCT AND DEVELOP OUR COUNTRY, MAKING CERTAIN THAT THE YOUTH OF OUR COUNTRY HAVE A BETTER FUTURE, WE MUST LIVE UP TO THE MEMORY OF JUNE 16!

Amandla ngawethu! Matla ke a rona! Matimba a hina!

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa