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Source: Ministry of Public Enterprises
Title: J Rabebe: Youth Assembly
ADDRESS BY MR JT RADEBE, MINISTER OF PUBLIC ENTERPRISES AT THE
YOUTH ASSEMBLY HELD IN PIETERMARITZBURG, KWAZULU-NATAL PROVINCE, 13
The Chairperson and CEO of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund
The Chairperson of the National Youth Commission
Your worship, the Mayors
Representatives of youth structures in KZN
Representatives of Political Parties
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to be invited to this important forum
and joining the representatives of young people in the Province of
KwaZulu-Natal. I wish to commend the partnership between the
Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF) and the National Youth Commission (NYC)
for convening this much-needed initiative aimed at enhancing
participation of youth in democratic governance. I am aware that
similar youth assemblies under the same theme: "Youth Reflection on
Ten Years of Freedom - Seize the Opportunities of Democracy", have
already taken place in other provinces such as Free State, Eastern
Cape, Western Cape and North West.
These assemblies affirm fundamental position of our Government,
which placed at the centre of its developmental path the interests
of young people.
Young people in our country have a fundamental interest in matters
of democratic transformation.
Let me state from the outset that I am not here to reflect on the
experiences of youth under ten years of democracy. This is a task
to be undertaken by young people themselves. However, there must be
recognition that your reflection takes place within the broader
context of a process for the review of the past ten of democracy
lead by our government, and involves other sectors such as youth,
religious organisations, women, the rural masses, disabled people,
private sector, professional bodies, academics, etc. It is
important that we collectively draw right lessons and conclusions
emanating from evaluation of the implementation of policies
initiated by the democratic government, as well as the progress
made since the advent of democracy.
In undertaking this critical task, which is a scientific,
transparent and popular-democratic process, we are guided by the
saying of that great African revolutionary, Amilcar Cabral: "Tell
no lies, claim no easy victories". My address today seeks to raise
some of the critical issues and questions that I believe youth
should take into account in its reflection on the significance of
ten years of democracy in our country.
The process of transformation unfolding in our country directly
affects youth. Youth is affected in many different ways by the
transformation initiatives introduced and undertaken by the
democratic government in various spheres of our society, such as
education, culture and economy.
Most importantly, youth is synonymous with social change. Young
people are inspired by and generally attracted to progressive ideas
about society. It is true that youth usually gets impatient with
the slow pace of change, which sometimes results in cynicism and
The assertion of youth interests has not always been a smooth
process. It has been dogged by controversy and resistance, driven
mainly by those opposed to the fundamental transformation of our
society. The single largest investment in youth development
undertaken by our Government through Umsobomvu Youth Fund is always
under attack. These attacks come in many different forms, including
criticism that these institutions are a waste of taxpayer's money,
which, it is argued, should be directed to other priorities. It is
clear to any objective observer that these attacks on youth
institutions will continue even as we prepare to celebrate ten
years of democracy, freedom and peace in our country.
I must remind this assembly that those who are today waging this
vicious campaign are the same forces that waged a similar campaign
on youth before the first democratic elections of 1994. They were
determined to undermine the contribution that youth made in the
struggle for freedom. They feared the self-activity and energy of
youth. They feared the example represented by youth activism, which
provided firm foundation for undertaking social transformation in
our society. They spoke about youth in derogatory terms as a lost
generation that could never be trusted, and tried to diminish its
role in the process of reconstruction and development of our
These forces would prefer that we all forget the historic role that
youth played in the struggle for freedom and democracy. They want
us to forget that the marginalisation of black youth located in
townships, informal settlements and rural areas is a direct result
of many years of the denial of opportunities to these youth.
The critical question is why this persistent attempts to undermine
youth in our country. To put it the other way, what is it about
South African youth that the dominant and privileged sectors of our
society view as a constant threat? There could only be one answer
to the question. This is the fact that youth symbolises struggle
for change in our country.
South African youth made its choice in so far as the struggle
between the forces for change and those of reaction is concerned.
As far back as the 1940s, South African youth chose the side of
those striving for progress, democracy and peace. The youth
generations of 1976, the young lions of the 1980s and those who
fought for the space leading to the democratic breakthrough of
1994, continued with this deep commitment.
It is obvious that South African youth has not been forgiven for
the historic choices it has made and its role in social change.
Therefore, attempts to diminish the role of youth in the future of
our country are unlikely to stop in the foreseeable future.
I must say that the Government is driven by a different outlook and
ethos when approaching the question of youth. As a starting point,
our Government is not threatened by independent initiatives and
energy of young people in our society. Instead, we support the
initiatives undertaken by youth themselves, and believe that its
energies should be mobilised and harnessed towards the goals of
nation building, non-racialism, and reconstruction and development.
We believe that youth must learn in order to prepare itself to
solve the material-technical, economic, social, ideological and
moral challenges facing our country and its people.
To this end, Government will continue to support and provide
necessary resources to the institutions charged with the
responsibility for youth development. The budget presented by my
colleague, the Minister of Finance, makes provision for youth
development and addressing critical challenges facing young
In reflecting on ten years of freedom and peace, we should look
back from the perspective of the aspirations and expectations of
youth a decade ago. But we will also realise that youth is a stage
that we all go through in our lives. In concrete terms, this
suggests that the aspirations and expectation of young people would
naturally change, because most of the youth of 1994 are today
adults who are making a contribution to the development of our
society. Youth aspirations and expectations cannot be defined in
static terms and in a way that ignores this natural
Therefore, it should be expected that there would naturally be
differences in the expectations of the youth generation of 1994,
and those who graduated and/or born during the first decade of
Among the aspirations and expectations of the youth in 1994 was the
yearn for a better education. Our youth were involved for many
decades in the struggle for a better education system. They wanted
to receive an education that will prepare them for the future, and
ensure that they realise their full potential.
The democratic government was aware that education transformation
forms an essential component of the process of reconstruction and
development. In addressing the aspirations and expectations of
youth, Government introduced a single education system. Today,
matric results are beginning to reflect the importance of a single
education system for our country. There has been a curriculum
overhaul since 1994, and this is beginning to prepare the youth for
the challenges of the modern and changing economy.
Furthermore, Government has intensified its efforts to restructure
and transform higher education in our country. It is at tertiary
level that the development of human resources and production of
skills for our economy takes place. The budget presented by
Minister Manuel provides R1 billion to take forward the commitment
in this regard. Indeed, the ongoing transformation of our primary,
secondary and higher education has been one of the major
achievements of government.
Today, we invest significantly in education in the interests of all
youth of South Africa.
Many young people continue to face major challenges, especially
that of unemployment. Through learnership schemes introduced by the
state, many young people are provided with real opportunities to
acquire critical skills vital to them playing an integral role in
our economy. The learnerships have become a common feature of many
enterprises in the private and public sectors in the aftermath of
the Growth and Development Summit (GDS) held last July.
Many Government Departments, State-Owned Enterprises such as Eskom,
Telkom and Transnet as well as many private companies are using the
space provided by the GDS to engage many new graduates and
unemployed youth with the view to provide them with the opportunity
to acquire experience in order to access job opportunities.
The recently announced Expanded Public Works Programme is a case in
point where the Government is creating opportunities for youth, and
confronting the scourge of unemployment so prevalent among youth in
our country, especially in the rural areas. Through this programme,
many youth will get short-term jobs and acquire skills to prepare
them for the labour market.
There are many creative ways in which the principles of Expanded
Public Works Programme could be taken forward. I recall a few years
ago, the National Department of Public Works (DPW), in partnership
with National Youth Commission, developed a programme to improve
access to public buildings for disabled people. This, in my view,
was a good example of how this programme could be implemented where
youth is mobilised to take an active part in the development,
rehabilitation and maintenance of public infrastructure, buildings
and roads. There is no doubt that the public works programme is yet
another proof of the Government's commitment to advancing the
interests of youth in our society.
One area where I also believe Government created real opportunities
for youth is in the economic sphere. Government used its programme
for economic transformation to ensure that youth, as part of those
marginalized by decades of apartheid rule, are active participants
in the economy of South Africa. Today, many young people are
organising themselves into all forms of commercial entities in
order to take advantage of opportunities arising from the
Government's black economic programme.
In the area of procurement by Government Departments and
State-Owned Enterprises, youth have been getting their fair share
of the economic cake. This is as a direct result of policies
pursued by Government over the past ten years.
For youth in rural areas, the land reform and land redistribution
initiatives are giving a new lease of life to most of our rural
areas. Land reform also creates firm foundation for the rural
communities to pursue sustainable rural development. It is
essential that youth development is not urban-bias, with rural
youth not getting adequate funding and technical support. This is a
challenge for youth movements to address on an ongoing basis.
The establishment of Umsobomvu Youth Fund was in itself a concrete
and direct response to the many challenges that continue to face
youth in our society. Many youth across the country are beginning
to show appreciation of the strategic importance represented by the
National Youth Commission and Umsobomvu Youth Fund, and are
beginning to find ways of accessing these opportunities. I am aware
that some of the people invited to this forum are entrepreneurs who
are beneficiaries of initiatives undertaken and funded by Umsobomvu
Youth Fund. I will not go into details since the CEO, Malusi Kekana
touched on some of their achievements in his earlier address.
Allow me to touch on what I consider to be some of the critical
issues that our youth should take on board in its reflection and
deliberations on ten years of democracy. I regard these as
challenges rather than obstacles.
The one area where there is a need for honest reflection is on the
issue of the national youth service. The National Youth Commission
had said a lot about this in the past, but not much progress has
been recorded to this end.
I think creative ways should be developed to ensure that we give
concrete meaning to this imperative. It is important that the
commitment to serve the community should be engendered as a
positive virtue among our youth.
A contribution where youth and student organisations are expected
to make a significant contribution is in the area of literacy. With
a strong commitment to working in the community, we could embark on
a mass literacy programme where youth could assist our people on
how to read and write. Many countries in the developing world that
have gone through social transformation processes not dissimilar to
ours embarked on programmes to educate their population on how to
read and write, especially in the rural areas.
The youth sector should have its own debate about the meaning of
youth development. I am conscious that everyone claims to be
pursuing youth development, and this is well and good. The issue
should be looked at in the context of the urgent need to develop
entrepreneurs among young people. However, it is important to state
that youth development is and should not be reduced to the
challenge of developing youth entrepreneurs. The latter is an
integral part of a broader strategy to empower our youth. This
broader strategic approach involves the provision of employment
opportunities, skills development and training, better education,
access to services, etc.
Most importantly, youth development is itself a highly contested
process. Because it also involves the allocation of resources, it
is naturally a political process. We need to be vigilant and ensure
that in trying to address common issues vital to achieving youth
development, we do not neglect the dynamism and energy of the youth
themselves. Youth should impact on policy in a positive manner, but
also ensure that its interests are not neglected during the process
of social transformation.
Youth development is connected to social, class and economic
transformation of our society and the world. There is always the
danger of youth pursuing a model of youth development that is
bureaucratic and does not seek to release the energies of youth in
our society. Youth development should be about the struggle of
youth for change.
Related to the above is the role to be played by youth movements in
our society. Youth structures should assess whether youth
development is really possible and sustainable without the presence
of vibrant and strong youth movements. The National Youth
Commission and Umsobomvu Youth Fund should not be seen to be
substitutes for grassroots youth formations. Instead, these
institutions should and must be located within grassroots youth
formations, provide resources and ensure that these formations
mobilise the youth who must be the drivers of youth
Whilst a key task of youth today is to defend the National Youth
Commission and Umsobomvu Fund from attacks by those who do not
champion the cause of young people in our society, it is important
that youth itself reflects on the effectiveness of both the NYC and
Umsobomvu Youth Fund. I believe that an honest reflection among
youth should result in both these two important youth institutions
being strengthened rather than weakened. In this way, youth will be
able to gear themselves for the tasks of the second decade of
Finally, it is impossible to ignore the issues of youth
participation in the political process in our country. I do not
wish to repeat what has been said over the past few years. However,
I believe that a significant amount of awareness has been raised
among youth in our society. Youth is beginning to appreciate the
importance of politics in society, and recognises the need to take
an active part in order to determine the future of our
In order to sustain participation of youth in all spheres of our
national life, it is important that youth formations themselves
begin to understand and connect properly with young people. We need
to understand that young people will come into politics from many
different directions, and that their political consciousness will
also evolve in different ways from us. It is important therefore
that we do not get impatient with the current generation of youth.
The solution is to study in a systematic and in-depth manner the
unique ways in which the youth of today is beginning to organise
My assessment would be that youth today is not politically
organised, but it is at the same time developing and evolving new
networks and forms of organisation vital to its survival. It is
important that we understand these new forms so as to direct them
in a positive manner. Youth mobilisation and organisation should
not be limited to political organisation, however important this is
in our society.
In this way, I hope and trust that I have contributed to your
process of reflection, and stimulated your thought. I wish you well
in your deliberations.
I thank you.
Issued by: Ministry of Public Enterprises
13 March 2004
Source: Department of Public Enterprises