Rural development, job creation and poverty alleviation were central to Youth Day commemoration messages on Tuesday.
Both the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) delivered messages centred on youth development at separate rallies.
ANC Youth League president Julius Malema urged President Jacob Zuma to set aside 60% of the 500 000 jobs he had promised to create for youth people.
"The president said he will create 500 000 jobs by December this year... 60% of those who are going to get those jobs must be the youth," he said to a roar of excited young people at Huntersfield stadium in Katlehong, south of Johannesburg.
Among the unemployed at the stadium was Thabang Mofokeng from Sebokeng in the Vaal Triangle, who was hoping to get a job this year as he had been sitting at home since he matriculated in 2004.
"We are tired of hearing speeches which mean nothing and we hope that for a change they [the government] can be true to their word and implement everything that they promise.
"We need jobs... I've been sitting at home for five years without a job."
With him was Khonzakwakhe Buthelezi from Kagiso. Although employed, Buthelezi said lack of education had sunk the country's youth deeper into poverty and perpetuated the cycle of poverty.
He said young people ended up doing "mediocre" jobs like those their parents had done.
"We really hope they [the government] deliver on their promises, because we need better jobs. Our income doesn't enable us to buy houses because we couldn't afford going to tertiary [institutions], and we end up relying on the government," said Buthelezi.
He was among hundreds of people who were bused into Katlehong from townships as far afield as Kagiso.
Also hoping that Zuma would deliver on his promises was 18-year-old Siyabonga Dlamini, a grade 12 pupil from Katlehong.
"I'm hoping to study a degree in accounting next year, but I don't have the means. My parents are unemployed and I hope my big brother gets a job before the end of this year so that he can pay for my tuition fees in case I struggle to get a bursary."
Malema also got the thumbs-up for slamming the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, saying it had focused on advancing "their girlfriends and boyfriends" while neglecting the youth, and the National Youth Commission.
The two bodies had merged to form the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), which was formally launched on Tuesday.
In his speech Malema slammed the two bodies for having isolated themselves from poor communities. He urged the NYDA to be in touch with the people by setting up offices in townships and rural villages, "instead of in Midrand".
Mofokeng welcomed this message, saying most young people never knew how to get in touch with the two bodies.
"We need a National Youth Development Agency office in Sedibeng so that we can know where to go when we have problems or suggestions."
Following Malema's speech, Zuma also urged the new body to prioritise poverty alleviation, rural development, substance abuse and crime-fighting programmes.
"The agency has a lot of work to do. It has to develop an integrated youth development plan and strategy without delay... We expect the agency to initiate programmes directed at poverty alleviation, urban and rural development and the combating of crime, substance abuse and social decay amongst youth."
IFP Youth Brigade chairperson Pat Lebenya-Ntanzi also called for youth development and urged the NYDA to pay attention to young people in rural areas.
"Today, many youths still face the same problems as the generation of 1976. Despite the fact that we have made great strides since achieving democracy, unemployment, particularly among the youth remains a major concern," she said in a statement.
"The message to the new agency and its leadership is clear. To those young people in the rural areas and slums struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we must pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves."