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By Lunga Simelane


Young people must rise to the occasion

Waiting for political parties and leaders to stand up and do the work for us will not yield any results.

Despite the unfulfilled promises of the democratic era to improve unemployment and poverty, some young people still retain hope for a positive future – and it is seen in their striving to find jobs.

There is a perception that the youth is lazy. They are often characterised as being politically apathetic and engaged in general unrest. Many even hold the belief that young South Africans are lazy in comparison to foreigners.

In May, Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed youth unemployment remained a problem.

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Almost a quarter of a million young people lost their jobs in the first three months of this year. Detailing the age group of 15 to 34 year olds, the data showed the total number of unemployed youth stood at 4.9 million – a 1.1% increase from the last quarter. In Gauteng, it sat at 34.3%.

Even unemployment among graduates is far worse now than a decade ago. I came across a line in an article which stated: “To be young in SA is to know poverty, inequality and unemployment aren’t just fancy words used in policy documents – they’re a stark and daily descriptor of the youth’s life experiences.” I completely agree.

I do not agree that the youth is lazy and I have seen it in many instances. The latest events in Soweto were another clear indication of that. Young people want and yearn for change and sustainability. The main problem is, no-one wants to help, especially our leaders.

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However, it seems as if Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi is trying to rise to the occasion. In his latest project in June, to address SA’s unemployment woes, he invited Gauteng job seekers to apply for available jobs under the provincial government. This was all part of his mass labour initiative Nasi iSpani (here’s a job).

Long lines and large crowds were seen as desperate jobseekers – the majority being the youth – queued at Nasrec in Soweto. Despite only 8 000 advertised posts, more than 1.2 million applications were received.

And just last week, Lesufi announced that at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, the provincial government would hand over 6 000 appointment letters to young people to be trained as solar technicians. A further 40 000 young people between the ages of 18 and 35 will be appointed as part of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI).

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Now, Lesufi’s initiative may be seen as a political stunt or part of his personal agenda. We may never know because these are politicians and they never cease to amaze us.

But it is important to note the turnout of young people at both events. It simply showed the youth desperately wants and is looking for employment. It was overwhelming to witness that and proved just how bad things are out here for young people.

There was a lot of resilience displayed by them as they stood there. Some expressed to us what the opportunity meant, with many being pleased. You could see in their eyes they wanted change in their lives – and that fighting spirit is what is needed.

I wish we could come together like this, gathering in numbers with other issues which relate to the youth. Perhaps if we fought more to be heard, something could happen. Waiting for political parties and leaders to stand up and do the work for us will not yield any results.

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Nelson Mandela once said young people were capable of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom. Whether we want to face the truth or not, at the end of the day, it starts with us.

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