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The needs of black youth are legitimate!

14 August 2000

In her submission to the Human Rights Commission hearings on racism in the media, the Editor of Evening Post and Chairperson of SANEF, Miss Lakela Kaunda, stated the following about the image of black youth portrayed in the media: "The black youth have been on the receiving end of negative stereotyping for many years. Clichés such as the "lost generation" and images of them burning tyres in the past, and currently, images of cash-in-transit heists and other criminal activity give an impression that all young black males are criminals or are not to be trusted. We cannot ignore these stories. However, we need to find ways er, we need to find ways of balancing these images with highlighting the achievements of young black people, whether in school or in their social lives".

There is a desperate effort in some media to portray black youth as socially irresponsible, undisciplined, and hence hazardous to the moral fibre of this country, if not completely useless in the pursuit of our social and economic renaissance.

Yet another desperate effort is to obfuscate their role in struggle, not to refer to them as having taken the ultimate responsibility to bring apartheid down on its face, but rather to refer to them as dirty, undisciplined, stone-throwing youth that necklaced people.

In this, yet another desperate measure is taken to portray the youth as disaffected with political and other important national matters, concerned only with the next weekend bash, party and booze.

This way, attempts are made to de-politicise the youth and render them non-political beings interested only in jorl and having lots of money.

Unfortunately, this negative portrayal of youth, this reinforcement of a negative image of one-time heroes of the struggle, once praised and saluted by all, receiving the accolade of being called the Young Lions, develops into a reality and truth; false as though it is!

These youth that fought and sacrificed for freedom driven by the best ideals and most noble values and committed acts of sacrifice of inestimable magstimable magnitude have been turned into dirty criminals undeserving of the accolades they were once given in struggle.

What is now being taunted as noble and as what the youth should aspire for are wrong, corrupt and perverted values transported directly from the West: selfishness; unwillingness to offer free service to the people, especially the poor; and other very poor moral values discordant with the type of democratic society we are creating.

The liberal media stands most accused of these endeavours which, in their essence, betray profound hatred for the national liberation struggle, the moral principles upon which it stood, those that participated in this struggle, and those that will benefit from it!

The attempt is to ensure that our youth forget about the past and about the struggle. By so doing, it is hoped that they will look forward to some false future through the eyes of white liberals; and will become black-whites, coconuts of sorts (black outside but white inside), that despise the struggle for their own freedom, as well as those that brought this freedom about!

In this way, liberals would attain their most noble goal of rendering the youth an impotent force for change so that this democratic change we seek is nothing more than just a right to vote without any fundamental transformation of power relations. And, this is all that white liberals seek: a "free" South Africa in which all are "equale "equal, and power lies with the "masses" of WHITE property owners!

The media, this powerful instrument for communication, is a co-conspirator to this! Most of its coverage of black youth shows these negative things where they appear destructive. This negative coverage disregards the fact that most youth are honest, moral hard working and even poor people interested in the creation of a better life for all. However, some black media such as SOWETAN, TRIBUTE, TRUE LOVE and others cover black youth achievements.

Further, it disregards the fact that a lot is being by, on the one hand, the government and, on the other, youth themselves, against odds, to better their own lives. In their various ways, even if small fields, they are achievers!

The point we all need to know as South Africans is that the majority of our youth, the black youth in particular, have needs; that these needs are legitimate and they need to be urgently fulfilled.

It is for this reason that we now have youth development programmes in South Africa. In its "Youth Vision 2000", the ANCYL states that youth development "belongs in the sphere of those things requisite to prepare the younger generations to fulfil their historic role in the pursuit of the African Century. [Because of the stance they took against apartheid, they became eminent targets of the apartheid`s forces of repression]. Meticulously and in a systemic offensive, the regithe regime sought to break our youth materially and spiritually, to make them an impotent force for change. Accordingly, youth development is not accident perched precariously within the RDP; it is a central part of the programme to address the social, [economic] and national grievance of our people, and to prepare the younger generations for their historic revolutionary role at the helm of the pursuit of the renaissance".

It does not help the country to reinforce a wrong image about this future and destroy the confidence that people should have on this future!

No South African should derive joy and pleasure in the problems faced by our youth - and they are many. They range from unemployment, low quality and inaccessible education, HIV/AIDS, and even crime.

For instance, statistics are that the number of young offenders has drastically recently: with 80% for economic crimes, more than 200% for aggressive crimes and more than 400% for sexual crimes.

In education, the number of youth accessing tertiary education has sharply declined, especially in historically black institutions. This is due to financial reasons, and the fact that there are not sufficient resources to finance the national students financial aid scheme. There are also structural problems in the education system such as that most black students do social sciences and hence cannot access bursaries offered for science studies; and the system hsystem has only one exit point at secondary level, that is, matriculation.

And, there is yet another problem of ineffective teaching, learning and service. Few learners and educators strive for excellence in teaching, learning and service. There are low levels of discipline and commitment among many, as a result of which we have not realised an education miracle!

The problems of unemployment, HIV/AIDS and low quality of life in rural areas, especially among young women, cannot be over-emphasised.

The challenge is to address all these problems urgently and in an integrated and co-ordinated way to ensure that we produce a condition wherein the youth would be sufficiently empowered to meet their future confidently and capably.

Each and everyone of us, South Africans all, has to decide whether we act in the present to perpetuate this terrible practice ractice or we engage in struggle for a brighter and better future that the youth epitomise.

In this effort, the youth have no lesser task. They have to act decisively and with determination to rid our country of the conditions that lead some among us to still pursue the short sighted apartheid endeavour to materially and spiritually break our youth; and others to find reason to perpetuate this negative and destructive image.

Our freedom means that we must intensify the struggle and, together, expand the frontiers of freedom, democracy, human rights and a better life.

We must commit ourselves to national youth and community service, among others to pour our joint assistance and strength to help the victims of flood disasters in the Northern Province, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. We must embark upon actions to ensure cleanliness in Alexandra, in our schools and do other community service work. Thus would we reinforce the honour and accolades we won in struggle!

Only the combined national and united action of youth can defeat the liberal assaults on black young people! And, only in this way we will become the renaissance generation that this hour demands of us to be!

Malusi Gigaba
President
African National Congress Youth League