Address by Mr Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, UDM Deputy Secretary General, at the National Youth Day Commemorations, at eMadadeni, Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday, 16 June 2013
Programme Director, Mister President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
All protocol observed,
Fellow South Africans:
Much has been achieved in the development of young people since the advent of democracy in 1994.
However, it should concern us that today we commemorate the 37th anniversary of June 16 1976 against the backdrop of extraordinarily high levels of youth unemployment in South Africa.
According to the latest Labour Force Survey from Statistics South Africa, unemployment for people between the ages of 15-34 currently stands at 70.7 per cent. This means that, not only do young people still occupy the periphery of economic activity, but the problem of unemployment in South Africa appears to be one of youth unemployment.
This is a ticking time bomb which threatens to worsen the alarming levels of political instability in South Africa.
At the heart of youth unemployment problem is the poor quality of our education system, which is failing to equip the youth with basic skills or the skills the South African economy requires.
In addition to these challenges, South Africa is also battling with high prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse among the youth. We have to leave no stone unturned in the fight against alcohol and drug abuse.
Apart from these challenges, we are also faced with the problem where political connectivity determines one’s altitude. For many young people, coming from the wrong side of the political spectrum is increasingly becoming a fixed impediment to individual success. While this occurs, those who enjoy political connectivity become overnight millions.
The danger of breaking the important link between effort and reward is that we send a wrong message to the young people that they can take the escalators to success. No winning Nation can be built on this formula.
On numerous occasions people who are tasked with running youth development institutions publicly proclaim commitment to youth development, while privately practicing unrestrained extraction of private wealth from the public purse.
I wish we could wave a magic wand and get rid of these problems, but unfortunately we cannot. Nor do we have the time to develop another plan because South Africa has an abundance of plans. Our only limitation is that we do not implement them.
To turn this situation around, we require bold and decisive leadership from all the sectors of society to implement the plans we have developed thus far, as failure to do this will portray us a Nation that lacks the moral resolve to tackle its challenges.
We have to improve the quality of our education to ensure that our youth are both employable and capable of becoming employment creators rather than employment seekers.
We have to re-establish the link between effort and reward and root out corruption and maladministration in our society.
Fellow South Africans,
We have to work hard to ensure that we put selfless service to the people above all else.
Adam Smith puts this aptly in his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, when he says and I quote: “When the happiness or the misery of others depends in any respect upon our conduct, we dare not, as self-love might suggest to us, prefer the interest of one to that of many.”
Providing this bold leadership entails making important choices as a Nation. Former President of the United States of America, JF Kennedy once summarised these choices succinctly in one of his political campaign speeches in the 1950s when he said and I quote that: “…the American people have a choice to make…. a choice between national greatness and national decline…between the public interest and private comfort.” He continued and said: “All mankind awaits our decision. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.”
More than fifty years later, South Africa finds itself at this crossroad. The decision we take today will determine the kind of South Africa we seek to become.
Borrowing the words of JF Kennedy, I say that the peoples of Africa and the world wait upon our decision. We cannot fail their trust, nor can we fail to try.
I thank you.