Address by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at “A Youth Life Mentorship Seminar 2007” Tshwane College Pretoria Campus 3 August 2007
Managing Director of Eagle Foundation,
Members of the Board of Trustee,
Representatives of Tshwane North College,
Members of College management,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to be here at your invitation. To share some thoughts with you. I always like sharing thoughts with young people because I always hope that a little bit of youth will come my way when I discuss and share thoughts with young people. But I am even more impressed to hear that this was initiated by somebody who has such a passion for what he does, has a passion for fellow South Africans, has a passion for his country and more importantly a passion for his mother,
And indeed this has been a long process because there were other invitations but I could not make those days. But I then said I can’t make these days but lets find a day where I can be able to come, but I am glad that even though its started as an invitation for women but at least this is women month. So of course youth are very important. I do not think we should have youth month I think everyday is youth day because they are the future of this country, of any country.
And indeed it is encouraging for me to see that we have youth who have passion about the future because if the youth does not have a stake in future then that country has no real future. We must make sure the youth the country has a stake in the future and that is very important.
Of course South Africa is involved in a bigger project of building a human and a caring society founded on non-racial and non-sexist democratic values. I think those were expressed very well by Emmanuel and the caring part. I could not express it better than he did. It is correct for the youth to be seized with these subjects.
But according to Benjamin Disraeli “Youth is the trustee of prosperity”. So without youth being involved in the economy, in social issues they can be no prosperity in the future for this country. So I am very glad that the youth feels the way Emmanuel expressed. But of course we also have to understand our country which I think he does but nevertheless you all do.
I will also say few things about South Africa so that we share the passion of this beautiful country. I think South Africa can be described, there used to be an advert long time ago that described South Africa as a world in one country. I think they were right, South Africa is a world in one country and South Africa through its own experience has embraced a culture of human rights, freedom, peace and peaceful resolution of conflicts. It’s a country that has developed very strong democratic institutions; a country that embraces humanity and seeks to be participate in a dialogue of equals in resolving global challenges and it’s a true agent of progressive change.
It’s a country with diverse, colourful, warm and friendly people and who are reflective of the country’s attributes; a country with diverse attractions with good climate; a sporting nation; a nation that celebrates its diversity (culture, religion, etc) We are not a nation that be cries diversity and does not want this person or that person. We are a country that embraces diversity and we see diversity as strength rather than as a weakness.
It’s a country that bears a unique combination of a modern infrastructure, legal and economic system that is globally orientated with the spirit, energy, humility and human – centeredness of Africa; it’s a country with strong macro economic fundamentals, strong financial institutions, and modern industries. But it’s a country also that has challenges, we have lots of challenges in terms of poverty, in terms of making sure that every part of our village has the necessary infrastructure. We have challenges in terms of this very modern and world renowned financial institutions being able to assist our young and coming entrepreneurs. Those are some of the challenges that we are facing but we have to make sure that we can deal with those challenges as we go along.
But South Africa is also a country that understands the children and the most vulnerable in society have to have the first call on its resources.
But you asked me to share thoughts with you about leadership and the empowerment of the youth. And the question is how can we through out leadership inspire the youth to understand and participate in the realisation of the society we are building.
There are valuable lessons from many people but I will just quote from our very revered hero Nelson Mandela, he says. I quote “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory, when nice things occur. But you take the front when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” This is what our Tata Madiba says.
May be before we go into the role of leadership. Lets us talk about, who are the leaders in society?
My view is that we all have to play a leadership role at one time or the other during our lives. Youth also looks up to different role models as they grow up.
Aware that leadership is applicable to all facets of life. It is a competency that you can learn to expand your perspective, set the context of your goals, understand the dynamics of human behaviour and take the initiative to get where you want, just like Emmanuel and all of you, especially with the space created by the democratic order in our country.
Sometimes there is a tendency for people to associate leadership with political authority, which in turn ignores the significant role played by our parents, relatives, neighbours, teachers, people of faith, traditional leaders and community representatives in shaping the content of our individual character and the community in which we live.
I was glad that Emmanuel said what he said about his mother because I think parents play a very crucial leadership role at a time when it is matter most. Parent’s nurture and love young children. They teach them the skills of survival, love, passion, compassion but also parents must teach children that there is routine and a pattern to life and the sooner they get used to that the better because sometimes parents only want to talk about nice things and not discipline. Discipline is important in life because if you are not disciplined you cannot succeed in life. But discipline does not mean you have to be dictatorial. You can discipline kids in a democratic manner but discipline is important, in my view. I think parents must not abdicate that responsibilities.
And parents are the very first role models for children. The way they behave towards their children and towards each other can create a secure, loving and caring environment for the child, producing a confident and a respectful child with a sense of exploration and curiosity.
On the other hand parents, depending on how they behave it can create an insecure environment for the child where the child does not develop confidence and sometimes does not feel loved and sometimes does not feel safe with the parents.
I will tell you a short story.
A child about nine, ten year old visit the doctor with the parents and the parents very concerned and they say to the doctor, we really do not know what’s wrong with this child. For no apparent reasons he will take glasses and smash them on the floor, he will take plates and smash them, smash everything and this has happened so many times. We have tried to punished him and talk to him and it does not seems to help.
So the doctor examined the child; talk to the child. The child was a normal child. He could not find anything wrong and then he said ok, let me talk to him alone without you and the doctor tried to find out what was wrong and the child said no, it’s a simple issue. My parents fight all the time and I have learned how to stop them fighting because if I take a glass and smash it or something, they will stop fighting and they come scold me and punish me but they will stop fighting. Tell them that the remedy is very simple it lies with them. If they stop fighting and behave as parents, I will also have no reason to smash anything.
So this is my defence mechanism against their fighting. So you see that children can also lead in some ways when parents are not doing what they should be doing. And this is a lesson that us as parents and you as future parents should learn that how you behave, what environment you create in the home, shapes and moulds the child. We always look at adults and when they behave strangely we say what’s wrong with them. But a child can only bring to society as an adult what we taught it as a child.
If you teach a child cruelty as a child, conflict, fights, this and that. How do you expect that when this child is an adult, the child will suddenly know compassion and love and security and confidence? No. so it’s very important for us parents to be the right role models to children.
No that they will be no conflict between you and the partner but the role of parents towards the child has to be very clear and the responsibility has to be clear, that you do not anything that will create a monster out of a child and suddenly you have a child smashing everything. But it is a parent who has created that so most of you young people here, tomorrow you will be parents and you will have your own children and you must know that you will be the first role models for those children. So your leadership in that situation is very important.
Now the next layer of leadership that I think is also just as important, are the teachers because teachers are very important at the time the children are most impressionable and teachers can be very good role models for our children.
But on the other hand again teachers can depending on how they behave can not be such good role models. But teachers have very special responsibility in society. They have to inculcate the values, the morals and certain standards of behaviour in society.
They should portray dignity, self-respect, self-esteem, wisdom, courage and work ethics. Children cannot learn work ethics from teachers who do not come to school, who do not pitch up to teach for no good reasons. But also children should feel safe in the company of teachers whether they are men or women. They should feel safe in the company of teachers.
And teachers should be able to free their creativity of the children and make sure that the children should reach their full potential in their academics, in sports, arts, science, business, in social issues and therefore they should encourage youth to lead healthy lifestyle. So teachers are very important sector of leadership in society. In the times gone by teachers sometimes were people who women could not read will go to, to read their letters from their husband or their parents’ because teachers were trusted in society. Society felt they could trust teachers even with the most intimate information. And I hope that the majority of teachers are still like that. I am saying majority because I know they are some who are not like that. But I hope the majority are still like that.
The other layer of leaderships are the Youth themselves. I want to talk about is the youth themselves. We talk about peer pressure. What is peer pressure? In a way it is leadership of youth, leading other youth now the pressure can be either positive or negative.
So I want you to think about yourself. I am quite sure you lead some group, group of friends, some group somewhere and you must ask yourself. Has your leadership being positive? Has your pressure to your peers being a positive pressure and I hope all of you are saying inward to yourselves, it has been positive. If not there is still time. If the answer to yourself because I cannot cheat yourself is no, it has been a negative pressure I think you can still learn to change and have positive pressure to your peers.
So the leadership of youth is actually very crucial because the youth becomes influential at the time when young people are beginning to become a little rebel a little against their parents because they think are old enough and they know what to and they listen to their peers.
So peers have to be positive role models. They have to have positive peer pressure. Peer pressure on its own is not a bad idea but it whether positive or negative. So I hope that sector of leadership which is the majority in this room it exerting positive leadership to their peers and that youth you also got a responsibility to channel their energies assisted by schools, assisted by other people. They have to channel their energies in innovation, creativity and all the positive things that we have talked about and they must indeed do what they want to do with a passion.
I am glad that Emmanuel emphasised this. You must have a passion for what you are doing because if you want other people to follow you. If you do what do half heartedly who is going to follow because it looks like you are no even sure of yourself.
So the passion is the one thing that convince other people that this is a person you we can follow. But examples of that are very wide in South Africa. Beside the examples of South Africa I see today, Emmanuel and others but we know that if we just take the youth of 1976 they had a passion for what they did, starting in Soweto across the length and breath of our country.
The youth decided it was enough and they needed to be part of the liberation forces of this country and they indeed did that with a passion, they did with full understanding. The risks are high, they can die or even being prison but that did not deter them. It really did not deter them.
If you look at Solomon Mahlangu was hanged by the unjust laws of this country. But as he walked to the gallows, what did he said? Do you know what he said? I am glad you do. That’s good.
I quote” Tell my people I love them and that my blood will nourish the tree of freedom for all our people”
The freedom we are enjoying today was nourished by the blood of other young people who loved freedom with a passion, who loved you with a passion because Solomon was saying their knowing that he will never enjoy the fruits of freedom but he knew that his blood will water the tree of freedom and other people will benefit. That was patriotism.
He loved his country, loved his people, he loved future generations. So we are all here standing here in the standing platform, on the platform we called minister called that and that and others because there were those people who loved us with a passion who loved his country with passion and they were ready to give their lives for it.
Steve Biko, we are commemorating 30 years of his murder by the regime, he was one of those, and the list is long.
But I want to come to another layer of leadership, political leadership. Political leadership is very important, in part it tend to be very visible. I will never have been known about Emmanuel and his leadership maybe if I did not come here or it could have taken years and years.
But political leadership tend to be visible, in parliament, government and you know. So for me that why it’s so important because almost everybody can see that leadership and if that leadership plays a positive role it becomes good role models for the country.
Secondly it is very important it can make a difference or create an environment where people can able to use the talent to the fullest. So it is very important in that way but at the same time we have to acknowledge that they are human, they are fallible but they have an obligation, we have an obligation to behave in a manner that inspires confidence. Even though we are human we should not expect to say to people do as I say not as I do. I think you as a political leader, you should say to people do as I do and you will be indeed a good role model. So political leadership is very important because as I said earlier, South Africa is a country at work. If South Africa is country at work we should be the first ones to demonstrate that we have a work ethic that we work because we know that what we do can contribute to a better life for many people. But that we also, an example to the society. In short we should lead by example. Everybody should lead by example but now we are talking about political leadership.
But again if look you at South Africa or even the continent as a whole there are millions of people that I can quote who have indeed be exemplar and those we can start that with ones who are still alive, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Anton Lembede, they are gone, On the continent, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Abdel Nasser, Agostino Neto, Mwalimu Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and many others.
So there is no shortage of good role models at every level, parents, teachers, youth themselves and other sectors of society. When you want a good role model you can find one. So do not make an excuse, you do not make excuse that are lots of good role models around you. And you, yourself should be a good role model and indeed I am confident that a lot of you are. But what do we expect from our youth other than exerting positive influence on other youth.
I will just quote from our own President on June 16 this year. When he said “Our youth today during this period of building a united, non racial and non sexist society, need to cultivate a clear understanding of the kind of socio economic conditions we will inevitably pass on to the next generation.
More than ever before, the challenges of reconstruction and development in our country cannot be tackled effectively without a deepened understanding of our strategic societal issues. To what extent do our youth today understand the intricate nature of our modern society and economy?”
These are some of the challenges of the youth. The youth have a possibility of transcending some of the problems that the parents suffered because today is better than yesterday but it is up to you to make tomorrow better than today.
But for the youth today, I would say the most important thing, it is education, number two it is education, number three it is education, number four it is skills because with education and skills you can indeed reach your goals what ever they are.
If you have those so you have to take advantage of the possibilities that exist today in South Africa.
We’ve got a challenge, a big challenge of HIV/AIDS. What are you contributing to that struggle against HIV/AIDS individually and collectively?
I heard what Emmanuel is contributing when they were introducing him. But what you are contributing? Are you, yourself making sure that you do not become HIV positive. Are you? Yes, I am glad. And are you making sure that your friends, your colleagues and your relatives also understand and behave in a way that protects them because it is very important. The majority of this people in this country are not HIV positive. It is our responsibility to keep them that way. But those who are already HIV positive it is our responsibility also to make sure that we do not discriminate against them, we do de-stigmatise but at the same time we encourage them to live a life that make sure that they have a long years ahead of them.
So we a have responsibility and also the state has a responsibility to make sure that there are health services that will assist those who may be HIV positive, and those who may have developed into the Aids stage that they may have the necessary care they need.
To what extend are you ready to create prosperity in this country. The principal talked about skills and so on. And I think that this college is trying to do that because so we can not fight against poverty unless you create prosperity that can be shared, can be used to create a better life for all. But South Africa has endless possibilities, that is my view it has endless possibilities and it is up to you as young people to make sure that you grab those possibilities.
There is 2010 coming how many young people are saying, I must be in that team, the South African team in 2010 and what are they doing towards that beside those who want to be entrepreneurs or who want to do something as we go along.
But this is a problem that is facing not only South Africa but facing the world, just to tell you that.
More than half a billion of people who live on less than 2 dollars a day are under of 25. So poverty is among women and youth because 70% of the poor are women but also youth.
And everyday almost 30 000 children die of poverty or poverty related disease and 700 young people become infected with HIV/AIDS everyday in the world. Now we cannot be indifferent to the statistics, shocking as they are. We have to say what I am going to do to make sure that the next generation doe not has this kind of gloomy statistics.
And according to Orison Swett Marden” “Every youth owes it to itself and to the world to make the most possible out of the stuff that is in it”
So Emmanuel was saying the stuff in you must come out and therefore it is important for you to make sure that this statistics change.
Kofi Annan said ‘Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation.
This group here knows what innovation is and I am sure this FET Colleges will produce some innovators. Empowered they can be key agents for development and peace.
So youth can really play a very positive role even in attaining the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.
But because time is of the essence I will just like to end my talk with a very long quote from one of African young people and young writers. He started writing when he was young, he is still fairly young. He is a Nigerian author, called Ben Okri. This quote comes from one of his novels called “In Arcadia”.
He tells a story of someone who dies and finds himself or herself at heaven’s gate. This story goes the following. “
“A mysterious person meets you at the entrance, you have died, you at the heavens gate. You asked to be admitted. The mysterious person insists first about a conversation on the life you have lived. Then you complain that you had no brakes, things did not work out for you, that you were not helped, that people brought you down, blocked your way, that your father did not love you, that your mother did not care, that economic times were bad, that you did not have the right qualifications, that you did not belong to the right circle and that you were not lucky.
In short you pour out a veritable torrent of excuses but for every excuse you bring forth the mysterious person, points to little things here and there that you could have done, little mental adjustments you could have made. He gentlely offers examples of where instead of giving up, you could have been more patience, tenderly he shows you the little things you would have done with little things you would have done within the range of your ability.
Your will would have made a difference. As he offered his alternatives, you see how perfectly they made sense, how perfectly possible the solutions were and how manageable, you see how by being more alive to your life, as Emmanuel was saying and not panicking and afraid. Things could have been so much liveable and indeed wonderful. You suddenly see how could have been perfectly happy. All the time you were perfectly miserable. That you could have been freed instead of being a prisoner. That you could have been the radiant one radiant earth.
That living could have been fun. It could have been worthwhile, that life could have backline of possibilities. It could have a laboratory of intelligence of freedom; an experiments in the arts of astonished, living is place of circular miracles. It is where amazing things can be done, in a consciousness and in history”
So as Ben Okri explains if we change our mind set and we tell ourselves we can do, indeed we can reach for the stars. You will find that indeed life in South Africa is playground of possibilities and let the youth do amazing things.