ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS,
MINISTER DES VAN ROOYEN, at the
LOCAL GOVERNMENT YOUTH DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE,
20 June 2017,
Programme Director, Thapelo Maleke
Deputy Minister Nel,
Youth leaders from across the country,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dumelang, Sanibonani, Good Morning, Molweni, Goeie More,
I’m very happy to join you today.
Last week I joined another huge gathering of youth, in an occasion both sombre and joyous.
Like you, they were young people committed to changing our country for the better.
Like you, they had travelled from across the country.
On Saturday, we joined a thank you march for the Working on Fire fire-fighters, many of them young people like yourselves.
They had literally laid their lives on the line, in fighting the devastating fires that swept through Knysna and surrounding areas.
Like many of the youth of 1976, they remain the unsung heroes and heroines of our nation.
We may not remember the names of most of them, but all will remember their contribution to the people of Knysna and towards the betterment of South Africa.
We gather here during Youth Month to pay tribute to the sacrifices of the youth of 1976.
This year we also commemorate what would have been the centenary of the longest-serving president of the African National Congress, Oliver Tambo.
President Tambo’s views on the youth are succinctly expressed in this quote:
“The children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future.”
I am here to tell you that this government values its youth.
Cogta’s Community Work Programme created 243 162 work opportunities at the end of March 2017.
The youth form a large part of the CWP participants.
In addition to this approximately 10 percent of participants received various types of training.
In the past year, the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent trained 372 apprentices towards qualifying as artisans in various trades critical for municipal infrastructure delivery and management.
The National Rural Youth Service Corps has absorbed 19 000 young people and trained them in various disciplines.
These are only some of the initiatives that stretch across the national, provincial and local government spheres.
The Presidential Working Group on Youth also provides a strategic platform for government, civil society and the private sector to discuss the implementation of youth initiatives.
A Committee of 17 Deputy Ministers monitors the implementation of the five work streams that are aligned to the five strategic priorities of the National Youth Policy 2020.
This includes our very own Deputy Minister, Andries Nel.
Speaking at the commemoration of Youth Day on Friday, 16 June 2017, President Zuma said:
“The youth of 2017 is fighting for freedom from poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The democratic government calls upon young people to work with us in all spheres of government, as we proceed to ensure that young people live in decent homes in communities with roads, electricity, water, recreational facilities.
It is for this reason that this year’s National Youth Day is celebrated under the theme: ‘The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment.’”
This conference is convened under the theme of “Young people taking charge in leading development.”
Among the aims of the conference are to create a platform for youth participation at local government level.
Too often we can be accused of speaking to the youth, rather than hearing out their concerns.
This conference affords you an opportunity to voice your opinions.
It ensures that you can review the progress of the Youth Employment Accord, the National Youth Policy 2020 and the Integrated Youth Development Strategy 2020.
What has been your experience as youth practitioners of these policies and programmes?
What needs to change?
What successes and achievements should be replicated?
And what have been the failures?
These are some of the questions confronting the participants of this inaugural Local Government Youth Development Conference.
This conference will also see the formal establishment of the Local Government Youth Development Forum.
Simply put, its success or failure is largely dependent on your active participation.
The Forum provides an ideal opportunity to unclog any bottlenecks that youth-led organisations and initiatives experience.
We urge you to keep this forum one that is alive to the possibilities that our democratic South Africa provides.
Importantly, as you look to the future, what will this generation’s youth bequeath to those that come after you.
Certainly, Youth Economic Empowerment lies at the top of our agenda.
Yes, we know, ‘the struggle is real.’
Political emancipation was vital, but you cannot eat your vote.
The Social Profile of Youth 2009-2014 released by Statistics South Africa gives some insight into the challenges facing our youth.
Too many young people find themselves with degrees, but are unable to access economic opportunities and free themselves from the cycle of poverty.
Stats SA’s latest unemployment figures, released last month, places youth employment at 38 percent.
The General Household Survey, also released last month, indicated that just over 3.3% of blacks aged between 18 and 29 attended university in 2016.
High fees continue to limit access to education.
In addition to this sometimes poor quality education and insufficient training and development programmes chain our young people to the past, rather than serving as bridges to a brighter future.
However, let me add that these are not the only challenges facing the youth.
Besides unemployment and poverty, high levels of violence against women and children continue to plague our nation.
Let me condemn in no uncertain times the recent spate of attacks, especially against young women, as well as the revelations around increasing incidences of human trafficking.
The General Household Survey also showed that 18 percent of women surveyed were unable to attend an educational institution because of family commitments.
This affected only 1 percent of men.
As South Africans we need to re-examine the patriarchal nature of our society and the steps we need to take – yes as men – to ensure that our mothers, sisters and daughters do not continue to suffer these indignities.
Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and disability are still apparent.
The Outsurance advertisement for Father’s Day that received much well-deserved outrage serves as a case in point.
Discrimination continues to define a large part of our lives and opportunities.
However, this incident also highlights another challenge facing our youth.
The silencing and marginalisation of poor, young, black South Africans remains a concern.
If you’re not part of the Twitter and Facebook generation, then it seems that your voice does not count.
How do we ensure that our youth initiatives address the concerns of young South Africans who have not, for example, joined the digital revolution?
The stigmatisation of young South Africans who have HIV/AIDS, as well as violence against the LGBTQ community and the prevalence of a rape culture are also deeply problematic.
So while economic emancipation remains a priority for this government, there are still many other challenges that afflict our youth.
You need to decide how to resolve them and this platform provides the perfect opportunity to do so.
As you hurtle into the 21st century you face a different set of challenges from the youth of 1976.
You really need to recast yourselves as entrepreneurs of the future and not employees.
I’m reminded of the words of one young South African, that I’m sure you all know of.
Growing up in apartheid South Africa, he couldn’t be seen in public with his white father or his black mother.
Today, his watched by millions around the world.
He turned his misfortune, into his fortune.
In his book, “Born a crime,” Trevor Noah had this to say about his rise to fame and his mother’s heroic role in his life:
“If my mother had one goal, it was to free my mind.”
So I urge you, free your minds.
The democratic South Africa extends to you a plethora of opportunities that my generation could only dream about.
I urge you to dream big and let this Local Government Youth Development conference be a stepping-stone to greater achievements.
Not only for you, but also to ensure that you bequeath a better future to the next generation.
I thank you.