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SA: Buti Manamela: Address by Deputy Minister in The Presidency, National Youth Policy Consultative Conference, Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg (29/03/2015)

SA: Buti Manamela: Address by Deputy Minister in The Presidency, National Youth Policy Consultative Conference, Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg (29/03/2015)

30th March 2015


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I re-iterated that the National Youth Policy 2020 is about the youth, for the youth and by the youth of South Africa.  Nothing for us without us.  This was not a call that I made lightly.  It was a call that is deeply rooted in this post-apartheid government’s commitment to consulting stakeholders and communities in the policy development process.  My call was rooted in my belief that young men and women have a critical role to play in their own development.  Their views matter and their voices must be heard.

And so our journey continued as we consulted with our country’s most precious resource.  We directly engaged youth in provincial, regional and local consultations across the nine provinces.    We went to schools, shebeens, taxi ranks, bus stations and workplaces speaking with young people.  We met with key youth formations from across our diverse youth sector.  We received over 100 written submissions on the NYP 2020 from varied youth voices across the country.

We could not meet all young people face to face.  So we used social media platforms extensively.  After all, that is where most young people are found.  We conducted a twitterview on LiveSA and obtained more than 1 million impressions. In 1 hour of a twitterview we were able to reach more young people than in a single consultative meeting. Social media allowed us not only to speak with you but for you to ask us questions and receive prompt responses.  All NYP 2020 activities were put on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of The Presidency to ensure that young people were always kept abreast of the consultative meetings happening in their area.
We reached about 100 000 young people with the # NYP 2020 campaign and got young people talking through the photos they took holding up boards and a message of what they want to see in the National Youth Policy 2020.
We also used YouTube to post videos of the consultations. We used Flickr and Instagram to post pictures of you coming out in your numbers to speak to your government about your needs, interests and aspirations. We heeded the call from young people to be more accessible and to keep the lines of communication open. That is why today we are launching an App on Mxit. The App is called Isago.  Isago means “My Future” in the Setswana language.  The app will allow you to track progress and implementation of the National Youth Policy 2020 and to remain engaged with us.

As I walked in shopping malls, travelled through airports, sat in restaurants, I had scores of young people come up to me to chat about the National Youth Policy 2020.  I may have missed a flight or my food may have been left cold………but I was warmed and enriched by the many conversations I had with you about the critical issues facing youth development.

And so our journey brings us here to this National Youth Policy 2020 Consultative Conference.  This conference is a further affirmation of the “Nothing for Us, Without Us” call as we gather over the next two days.  At this conference we will present an updated version of the National Youth Policy 2020.

Our presentation includes a consolidation of all the input we received from you.  We will give you a further opportunity to help sharpen the NYP 2020 through our dialogue in plenary and in panel discussions.  So I need to warn you in advance……..We are here to work.

Policy development is a challenging process.  It requires us to truly understand the context in which we are located in order to make the appropriate policy choices.  It is never neutral.  Yes, policy development is about making choices, sometimes difficult ones.  There are many social commentators and armchair critics today who contend that South Africa’s current socio-economic challenges are a result of this democratic governments twenty year failure.  They minimize the role and effects of our apartheid history.  And they continue to labour under this fallacy.  How do we explain our general and higher education challenges experienced today without going back to the education policy choices that the apartheid government made for us?  How do we explain the low skills base amongst black people in general without understanding the skills development policy choices that the apartheid government made for us?

As young people we have a responsibility to understand our past in order to truly comprehend and make sense of our present.  We must debunk these fallacies that are tossed around masquerading as the truth.  But we also have a responsibility to shape the future.  It is our future.  And we must make the appropriate policy choices today that will shape our National Youth Policy 2020 for the next five years.

Allow me to speak more directly about the National Youth Policy 2020 that is in front of you.  I will not go into the finer details of the policy as there will be further presentations on the key issues later today and tomorrow.  Through the initial research we have undertaken we identified four priorities for the NYP 2020.  These four priorities are:

1. Enabling economic participation and transformation
2. Facilitating education, skills development and second chances (quality and access)
3. Health care and combating substance abuse
4. Facilitating nation building and social cohesion.

The research tells us that:
On economic participation at 57, 8% the labour absorption rate for adults is almost twice that of young people at 30,8%. This is reflective of an economy that is not growing and is not allowing new entrants into the market. Resolving the problem of youth unemployment must be done in tandem with the national initiatives of transforming the economy into a labour absorbing economy. Most of what needs to be done for this to happen is articulated in the National Development Plan, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, The Youth Employment Accord and others.  The National Youth Policy 2020, drawing heavily on the National Development Plan and other existing redress policies also begins to engage with youth black economic empowerment; economic redress as well as land reform.
How do we change the economy?  How do we change its ownership and control?  These are questions not only for economists and policy makers.  These are questions that you must directly engage with at this conference.  Our national unity is at stake here.  For our national unity to be of substance we have to address the ownership and control of the economy and transform it.  Your ideas and your views are important on these matters and you must articulate them.

We need innovative youth entrepreneurs and youth co-operatives.  These fresh ideas must propel young people to find a niche in the economy and transform it.  The levels of entrepreneurship uptake among South African youth are still far too low when you compare ourselves to our BRICS counterparts.  Out of ten young people walking into the NYDA offices, at least eight are looking for a job.  Only two are interested in entrepreneurship.  Young people have to be creators of jobs and not only seeking jobs.  This is the primary reason for the NYDA’s grant programme for young entrepreneurs.  It is designed to minimise risk and to stimulate youth entrepreneurship uptake.

Some of you correctly chastised us in our consultations for not opening up opportunities for youth in agriculture and the agricultural value chain.  You told us that land reform is too slow and it impedes youth agricultural development.  The clarion call is:  We want to be farmers, we want land.  Give us land.  Let’s engage further on this aspect in this conference.

On Skill Development, of the 1 million young people who exit the schooling system annually, 65% exit without achieving a Grade 12 certificate. Less than 4,3% of persons aged 18 to 29 were enrolled at a higher education institution in the country. Large numbers of youth, who possess no professional or technical skills, and who exited the education system prematurely, are effectively unemployable. About 60% of unemployed youth aged below 35 years have never worked. Without a targeted intervention, they will remain in the fringes of society. The National Youth Policy 2020 picks up mainly from the National Skills Accord and the NDP to articulate how skills development will be made accessible to the majority of young people.
It was an ordinary morning when a young girl, aged 15 years, boarded a school bus on her way to school.  The doors flung open.  A gunman boarded the bus and walked up to the 15 year old girl.  He drew his gun and pulled the trigger shooting her in the head.  The story made news all over the world.  Who was this girl?  Why was she shot?  What was her crime?  Malala Yousafzai was that young girl.  Her crime, in the eyes of the Taliban, was to insist on the rights of girls to get an education.  Why was the Taliban so afraid of the 15 year old Malala Yousafzai getting an education?  The answer to this question was summed up by our father, Nelson Mandela when he said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.  For her courageous youth activism, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

We may not have the Taliban to contend with, but we have our own challenges around education.  We must make education fashionable.  We have to improve the access to education.  And at the same time we have to improve the quality of education.  What should young people be studying?  Are young people studying towards the qualifications that are needed by labour market?  Are we persuading young people to study towards the needs and opportunities of a changing economy?  These too are important questions that you must deliberate upon and give direction.

On behavioural challenges, of the total number of deaths due to assault and intentional self-harm in the country, 69% and 59% of them, respectively, occurred among those aged 15–34 years. The abuse of alcohol, particularly, is directly linked to high levels of violence and motor vehicle accidents. Amongst youth, there is an increase in the level of experimentation with drugs and alcohol. Who can forget the mother who killed her own son because she could no longer bear living with someone who was no longer the son she raised because of the drug induced behaviour.
The six leading natural causes of death for age group 15–34 in 2013 were tuberculosis (accounting for 14% of all deaths in this age group); human immunodeficiency virus [HIV] disease (10%); other viral diseases (6%); influenza and pneumonia (5%); certain disorders involving the immune mechanism (3,0%); and intestinal infectious diseases (3%). A total of these six causes all associated with HIV disease, indicating risky behaviour in terms of sexuality.
This is collaborated by other evidence. In a study conducted by the HSRC amongst learners, the findings for sexually active youth were that 47% had two or more sexual partners in their short lifetime, only 33% practiced consistent condom use, and 18% had been pregnant or have made someone pregnant. This is worrying.

The National Youth Policy 2020 draws heavily from the drug master plan spearheaded by the Department of Social Development and suggests a myriad of interventions.  This includes the building of public drug treatment centres, one for each province and stricter enforcement of municipality bylaws dealing with restricting access to alcohol. The National Youth Policy 2020 also talks to increased access to reproductive health care services and information so that young people are empowered to make correct choices in relation to their sexuality.
On nation building and social cohesion, there is a lot that must be done for the creation of a non-racial society. Urinating on a taxi driver, forcing university employees to eat food “urinated upon”, mocking Africans by painting faces black and dressing up as maids, mowing down black people in Skierlik informal settlement; all these hideous behaviours were committed by young people who grew up in a free and democratic South Africa.
How do we explain this?  How do we respond to the racists that tell black people that they must forget apartheid?  And yet this confident fringe of racists practices the very same apartheid behaviour.  The very racist discourse in relation to the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign is scary where some white people were calling black people baboons.

This takes place after 20 years of democracy.  However it is encouraging to note that youth activists have taken a stand at the University of Cape Town and indeed around the country.  Their youthful energy in challenging the powers that be over racist symbols is inspiring.  It opens up opportunities for a constructive racial discourse.  It opens up opportunities to redefine the future.    Their brave actions have dispelled the notion that South Africa’s youth are depoliticised and apathetic.  Young people should take advantage of this momentum.  Let’s take the transformation discourse beyond symbols.  Let’s lead this discourse towards the transformation of the economy and beyond.

There is still a lot of work to be done in bringing about a non-racial society as promised by the Constitution. The National Youth Policy 2020 encourages that young people themselves must lead.  They must display their leadership with acts of solidarity in their communities, so that the Ubuntu mantra of I am because you are lives in the communities of South Africa.

The National Youth Service programme still holds promise for our nation building and social cohesion efforts.  But we have to strengthen this critical programme as part of the NYP 2020.  More NYS programmes must be developed within government, civil society and the private sector to allow for massification.  Our national flag, our national anthem and our national symbols are important for young people to learn about.  They help solidify us as a nation and provide an edifice towards strengthening our national identify and fostering patriotism.
Youth Development is everybody’s business.  It’s not just the NYDA’s business.  While the NYDA is an important agency of government, the agenda of youth development is too gigantic to be left to one agency only.  Through the National Youth Policy 2020 we will ensure that the coordination, mainstreaming and oversight of youth development and youth work is not only going to be what the NYDA does but must be mainstreamed in the work of government and other social partners.  The NYP 2020 must convene government in its entirety towards the youth development agenda.  Through the soon to be released Integrated Youth Development Strategy, very clear and specific targets will be set.  Strong oversight will be provided to ensure that government indeed mainstreams youth development.

There are serious youth policy matters for us to dialogue and discuss here at this National Consultative Conference.  It is what the name suggests.  It’s consultative.  We are providing a final opportunity for young people to be consulted, to share their views, to sharpen the National Youth Policy 2020.  I do not expect us to agree on everything.
That is the nature of dialogue and debate.  But I do expect us to own this process.  The National Youth Policy 2020 is about giving youth a hand up and not a hand down.  After this process, we will consolidate your inputs and finalise the National Youth Policy 2020 before submitting it for Cabinet approval.  So I urge you, please air your views here at this conference.

I want to conclude by stating a concern that I have.  It’s a concern that has been with me for a while now.  We know young people to be a special type, with unique characteristics.  They are vibrant.  They are energetic.  They are creative.  They are robust.  They are resourceful.  They are imaginative.  They are original.  So my concern and my question is this………Why is it that our youth engagement and our youth programmes do not reflect these unique characteristics.  Have we become boring and unimaginative?  Have we resorted to the safe and sterile?  Have we put too much emphasis on the tried and tested?  When I look around I see youth engagements and youth programmes, both in government and civil society, lacking vibrancy, energy and creativity.  It makes our youth development stale.  This is not what we want because it does not reflect the unique characteristics of being young.

So I challenge you, as I challenge myself – Lets RE-IMAGINE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT.  Let’s push the boundaries.  Let’s put ourselves out there.  Let’s embark on this journey towards re-imaging youth development.  Let’s take youth development to that place where it encounters and fuses with the unique characteristics of being young.  We want our youth development to be vibrant, energetic, creative, robust, resourceful, imaginative and original.

Re-imagining youth development is about youth staking a claim in the future of South Africa.  And it starts here at this conference, with this NYP2020.
Let’s re-imagine youth development together.
I thank you.



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