Was it worth celebrating youth day?

optimistic: Excited attendees at the Youth Career Summit.Picture: Sumaya Hisham

As we celebrate this year’s Soweto uprising, and those remarkable student leaders who dedicated their lives for this freedom and democracy that we are celebrating today, we should remind ourselves of those relentless efforts of those who fought for liberation, of the many men and women who took up arms and courted imprisonment, bannings, torture and killed on behalf of the oppressed masses. 

A chapter in our history that exposed the brutality and thoughtlessness of the trigger-happy apartheid regime. It is this brutality that worked to mobilise thousands of young people across the length and breadth of our country behind the struggle against white minority rule, the activities of 16 June 1976 also assisted in mobilising a sizable portion of the international community against the crime of apartheid. There can be no doubt that it was generations of young people who made a dream of a democratic South Africa a reality led by Tsietsi Mashinini and Onkgopotse Tiro.

However, when celebrating this month of young people, we should have a deeper look at the many problems facing young people in particular Black youth. Young people in this God forsaken country bear the burden of the majority of the nation’s socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, unskilled, access to quality & decolonised education, inadequate health care, living in abject poverty and are socially marginalised. These are amongst many challenges that prevent many young people from contributing in the social, political and economic life of the nation.

It is with a throbbing and bleeding heart that I have to commemorate a June 16 when young women and children are being molested, raped, abducted and killed in numbers while on the other hand young people continues to fight the thunders of their struggle such as racism, classism, capitalization, alienation, exploitation, and police brutality. It is a dishonour to continue to commemorate and celebrate the colossal and heroic deeds of the youth of 76 uprising as this generation when we are jobless.

Young people’s future looks bleak, filled with promises of a better life while they continue to remain external to sioco-economy activities of this country and our government continues to be detached, supercilious and predatory towards youth. Our government remains predatory and alien but in a new though equally repressive configuration wielded by new Black elites. The state has become an instrument by which certain Black elites enriched themselves at the expense of it’s youth and citizens. Moreover, since the dawn of democracy the struggle has been about self enrichment for those who are in power for material survival but not for the empowerment of young people in democratic government.

It’s been 42 years since the Soweto uprising yet the youth continues to live on a lonely island of abject poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity and 24 years later in democracy, Black youth still suffer in the corners of our society and finds itself an exile in their own country. Indeed, our government has failed young people and unlike many young people who remain hopeful for a better future, I am one troubled youth to no end by the stark contrast between the benefits and promises that freedom brings with it and the harsh reality that many young people face in their daily lives.

What’s there to celebrate when government has failed to ensure that youth and skills development becomes a critical component in national development. Today, you have failed to march forward with more vigour and determination to succeed in pushing back the frontiers of poverty and creating more opportunities for our youth, black youth.

What was there to celebrate when you have failed to represent us, when you have failed to make youth development your top priority, and when you have failed to realize the noble dream of 1976 to provide free, quality and decolonized education?

What’s there worth celebrating when you have failed to address the challenges of empowerment and skills development, failed young South African graduates who yearn for decent jobs and earn decent wages. When you have failed to contribute to our economy that is supposed to grow and produce decent jobs. When your education system has failed to produce more world class young black engineers, artisans, farmers, tailors, economists, etc to lead us to our developmental aspirations.

What’s there worth celebrating when 24 years of democracy has shown, that your approach to development has failed to meet the expectations of young people. In the past 24 years I have seen the poverty of Duncan Village and the wealth of Beacon Bay in East London. In King Williams Town, I have seen jobless youth of Ginsberg Township and the prosperous residents of Kaffrarian Heights in King Williams Town.

In the past 23 years i have seen slums of Alexander and the opulence of Sandton, while the youth continue to be subjected to live in abject poverty. What’s there worth celebrating when I have seen the faces of young, disillusioned, unemployed and poor graduates in Mdantsane and the quiet wealth of Gonubie and Summerstrand.

The greatest impediment to the realization of skills development and employment is the lack of selfless, non-corrupt and committed government leaders who have contributed immensely to the sociopolitical and economic predicaments facing South Africa and it’s youth today. It’s sad. A rich nation that is full of resources but it’s young people are still living far below the lines of poverty and leaders of the ruling party in particular are indulging themselves in lavish lifestyle, smoking Cuban cigars, drinking expensive whiskies at the expense of the masses.

The generation of Tsietsi Mashinini made its voice of resistance to apartheid heard, and was determined to be listened to. Thus, there is a need for this generation to wage a resistance towards the current government, in an attempt to challenge the balance of power, inequality, high unemployment rate and access to mainstream economic activities. But until then, our our struggle will stay the same. There is nothing worth celebrating but to respect and commemorate a historical event that shaped the future of this country.

Nhlanhla Mosele better known as Noble Son is a young entrepreneur, a staunch proponent of Black Consciousness Movement, Blogger | Writer | Social Commentator. His inspiration is drawn through the loving and caring environment of Africa, from the sacrifices of the great Nkrumah to Lumumba generation and Sobukwe to Biko generation.