Address of the President of the Republic Of South Africa,
Thabo Mbeki, at the Youth Day celebrations: Absa Stadium, Buffalo City Municipality
Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,
the Presidency responsible for youth affairs, Essop Pahad,
Ministers and Deputy
Premier of the Eastern Cape province, Nosimo Balindlela,
Worship, Executive Mayor of the Buffalo City Municipality, Ntombentle Peter,
Youth Commission Chairperson, Nomi Nkondlo,
National and Provincial Youth Commissioners,
leaders and our esteemed youth,
Members of the June 16th Foundation,
of our political parties and civil society formations,
Our religious and traditional
The distinguished national, provincial and national leaders and representatives
of our people,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Fellow South Africans:
I would like to greet
all our people who have gathered on this important day in our national calendar
the National Youth Day. On June 16, 1976, multitudes of South African youth emerged
from township school classrooms to confront a brutal system of racial oppression
universally condemned as 'a crime against humanity.'
Propelled by the
basic human urge to be free, this generation of young men and women took to the
streets of Soweto and many of our townships in a show of defiance to the apartheid
system. Today, 31 years on, we have gathered here and elsewhere across our country
to remember this epoch-making chapter in the history of our struggle for freedom.
Indeed, we have once again come together to celebrate the lives of
this generation that hurled itself at the juggernaut of apartheid, driven by the
spirit of freedom, justice, democracy and equality. Determined to do everything
humanly possible to bring about freedom in our land, they unlocked a wave of human
energy unequalled in the history of our country. In essence, as we gather to commemorate
the fateful events of that time, we are equally celebrating the lives of the young
men and women who took a resolution never to live under apartheid oppression,
nor to allow the lives of the coming generations to be destroyed by racial oppression.
Today as we look back at that era we can, with hindsight, confidently
say the June 1976 generation ably responded to the imperatives of their time.
Indeed we can, aided by the vantage of history, state that the 1976 generation
defined for itself its life purpose and set about fulfilling it. Aware that they
had the responsibility to determine their destiny, the youth of June 16 refused
to be distracted by the ordinary things that attract the youth.
and found the courage to rise against the apartheid monster so that, out of the
ruins of the apartheid system, they could lay the foundations upon which would
raise a new nation. We have gathered here and elsewhere in our country to celebrate
this generation, which took the liberation struggle to a higher trajectory.
their remarkable acts of bravery born of the determination to assert their humanity,
they irreversibly pushed back the frontiers of oppression. Unity, vision and adherence
to principles were the mortar and bricks that built this generation into the mighty
force that helped to bring us the freedom we enjoy today.
Fellow South Africans:
struggle for a better society spans generations, with each generation called upon
by the imperatives of its age to carry out its 'generational mandate'.
succeeding generation faces the responsibility carefully to study its social conditions,
accordingly to set its own agenda, so that it can contribute to a better human
condition. Our current generation of young people owes it to history to protect
and champion the ideals of social justice, an abiding culture of human rights,
and a humane, just and equitable social order.
What then, are the challenges
the present generation has to grapple with? What kind of youth consciousness is
needed today to address the kind of issues thrown up by a free, non-racial society?
Indeed, what are the characteristics required of the present generation to measure
up to the challenges faced by our democratic order? Importantly, how does the
current generation ensure continued contribution to the systematic national effort
to undo the pervasive social reality spawned by apartheid?
the questions that must be answered during the process of building a better society
for all our people, black and white, and to create conditions that will allow
the youth of our country to enjoy their lives in conditions of total freedom.
Correctly, the youth of our country today have to confront the question whether,
in these conditions of freedom, they have marked out a role for themselves, necessarily
to help bring to fruition the objectives of this free society set in motion by
the youth of June 16, 1976.
The task at hand for all the youth of our
country in post-apartheid society, 31 years after 1976, and 13 years into our
freedom, is to mobilise our collective energies to advance the transformation
project of our country, and to build a united and prosperous nation. Today in
post-apartheid South Africa, 13 years into this hard-won democracy, our youth
face the task to identify and define for itself the societal challenges embedded
in the womb of our era.
Unavoidably, this task will not be easy, but
has to be accomplished lest we, collectively as society, betray the legacy, values
and vision that have, over the years of struggle, given shape and meaning to the
character of the South Africa that the June '76 generation sought to create.
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 strategic societal issues.
what extent do our youth today understand the intricate nature of a modern economy?
How deep is our understanding of globalisation and other related global challenges
that have a bearing on our country, and indeed, our continent's development trajectory?
How pervasive is the culture of reading among the youth of our country? And how
eagerly are those with skills and knowledge among our youth prepared to put these
critical requisites at the service of society?
Fellow South Africans,
During the 1980s a new generation of youth emerged, conscious of the
political need to continue to wage the struggle for a free South Africa.
with his ever-lucid political mind, OR Tambo called this generation 'the Young
Lions'. That generation of the young people of our country has, like the
generation before it, responded to the dictates of its conscience, taking up the
cudgels rightly to meet the requirements of its age. Today we look forward to
the present generation to take forward the struggle in the context of the different
conditions of freedom we have created ourselves.
Correctly, we need
to ask the question whether this generation is living up to our country's long
tradition of youth leadership on major questions of the day.
What is the present
generation doing to help government and the rest of society to address the challenges
of teenage pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse as well as the challenge of deepening
democracy in our country? Whereas the past generations of youth fought to reclaim
our humanity from those who had set themselves the impossible task of denying
it to us, the present youth should seek to fulfil the sense of our humanity.
celebrating life and freedom within the context of social responsibility and awareness
call for deepening our knowledge with regard to challenges that face our nation,
our continent and our world. Among others, we need to fulfil the sense of our
humanity through being aware of major issues such as globalisation, climate change,
unfair global trade, technological challenges, the threat of terrorism, racism,
xenophobia and sexism, human trafficking and multilateralism and global governance.
At the same time, all of us must understand that we cannot fulfil the dreams
of a better life for all our people when our communities are faced with
a serious problem of young drug addicts and alcoholics who face a bleak future
and constitute a liability to society. We cannot fulfil the dreams of a better
life for all, for which thousands of the 1976 generation lost their lives, if
our young people are caught up in irresponsible sexual lifestyles.
cannot fulfil the dreams of a better life for all, when in our schools, which
are there to serve as nurseries to prepare our youth for the future, we find learners
carrying dangerous knives, guns and drugs. We cannot build a caring society when
the taking of human life and acts of robbery become commonplace. The foundations
for the future have to be laid today. But if our youth, who are supposed to be
at the heart of that future, are languishing in jails because of crime, or are
turned into young mothers because of teenage pregnancies, we will not fully succeed
to lay this foundation.
Without critical social consciousness among
the young generation we cannot build a society based on good moral foundations,
compliance with the law, respect for our democratic institutions and a culture
of upholding the constitution. Our country's reconstruction and development efforts
should be underwritten by active involvement of our youth in moral regeneration
efforts and supporting government programmes that are geared to fighting poverty,
illiteracy, unemployment and crime.
We live in a globalised world shaped
by powerful forces that impact on the destinies of weak, poor and developing nations.
Understanding globalisation issues enable us to develop a critical consciousness
about our responsibilities in the world, so that based on this knowledge, we can,
correctly, wage struggles for global justice, peace and equality.
the challenges embodied in globalisation continue to bear down on the developing
south, our youth must begin to question dominant forms of discourse and relations
that shape the agenda of world affairs. They have the responsibility to ask questions
about the distribution process of the fruits of the earth, and begin to elevate
the agenda of the developing nations, placing it on the table of the multilateral
There cannot be any future for our youth to inherit if
global warming continues unabated through the destructive production and consumption
patterns of the rich and powerful from the developed world who have, due to their
power, voraciously amassed the wealth of the planet earth without regard for the
consequences of their actions on the rest of humanity.
Like the June
'76 detachment that shook the world through pursuing the agenda of equality, justice,
and democracy, our youth should be seized with the task to strive for a world
free of domination, poverty, racism, sexism, and under-development. Again, we
need to pause to ask the proper question: what kind of youth do we need today
in post-apartheid South Africa, 13 years into our freedom?
who will rightfully claim the future, we need to begin now to re-imagine reality.
We need to begin now to roll our sleeves to work towards the reconstruction and
development of the African continent and continue to strive for a humane, peaceful
and prosperous world. We need to begin now to understand the challenges that undermine
the yearnings of the people of Africa and world to extricate their lives from
the trap of poverty, powerlessness, under-development and inequality.
We need to accelerate our own national efforts towards
the development and empowerment of our youth. For this reason, among other things,
a bursary and a loan programme for new and young teachers has been established
so as to prepare these young people to be better leaders of tomorrow. Government,
through the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa), has identified
the need for development of scarce skills among our youth. Such scarce and critical
skills include artisans, boilers, engineers, town planners etc.
order to accelerate this process, government has allocated R600 million towards
the recapitalisation of the Further Education and Training (FET) colleges. During
this financial year, more than 20 000 students have been registered for the National
Certificate programmes. As part of promoting integration in our skills development
effort, various skills development institutions such as the Sector Education and
Training Authorities (SETAs), FET and centres of higher learning will implement
provisions of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) they have entered into.
has also increased the National Student Finance Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for needy university
students among other things to address skills shortages in such areas as science,
technology and engineering. Our skills development programme provides that we
need to increase the number of young people doing mathematics and science at higher
grade so that we improve the graduate output to 50 000 by 2008. Government continues
to monitor the 529 Dinaledi schools where the project is currently being implemented.
As part of promoting healthy lifestyles among our youth, we continue
to implement physical activity programmes. The campaign also promotes the development
of food gardens in schools and communities and anti-smoking initiatives among
young people. Government has also undertaken to embark on an awareness campaign
to reduce illegal drugs and substance abuse among our youth. Our safety and security
agencies conduct regular operations to end the movement and abuse of drugs.
the end of last year, Cabinet took a decision that, as part of accelerating youth
economic participation a Presidential Youth Development Forum must be set up,
chaired by the Deputy President and the National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairperson.
The inaugural sitting of the forum is set to take place on Monday, 18 June 2007.
This forum will help us to promote more understanding among the business community
that our youth are the future and investing in them today contributes towards
sustainable development of our economy.
A research study conducted
by the National Youth Commission points that only 25% of our municipalities have
local youth units and 24% have youth policies. This tells us that the integration
of youth development in our local government work still requires radically to
be improved. More individuals and organisations are called upon to support government
and the youth development leadership to carry out the work of responding to the
challenges facing young people.
Fellow South Africans:
and ninety one (1 091) days separate us from the kick-off of the 2010 Soccer World
Cup very little time indeed. This means our youth should have started positioning
themselves to assist our country and the continent to host one of the best Soccer
World Cup tournaments ever seen. Our youth should continue engaging the various
role-players on the opportunities arising from this festival of young sports people,
many of whom would be coming to Africa for the first time.
also like to take this opportunity to convey our best wishes to the athletes,
young and old, who will be participating in the Comrades Marathon tomorrow. To
all young and not-so-young people participating in various sports activities this
weekend I would like to say - Good Luck! I wish everyone a happy Youth Day.
Issued by: The Presidency
16 June 2007