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It is noble for youth to sacrifice for their nation!
13 June 2002
On Sunday, June 16th 2002, our nation shall stand at attention as all our people salute their youth and their sheer gallantry. Families will go to pray, to lay wreaths, clean and perform their rituals at the graves of their children who lost their lives on this day and during the years that followed as the evil regime of apartheid continued to carry out its campaign of terror against the youth of this country.
For decades, our nation has honoured this day and, together with it, the youth upon whom, on many occasions, history conferred colossal responsibilities, calling and relying upon them to carry the hopes of the nation and shoulder the task to propel the struggle forward. They had to become the torch-bearers of the struggle, the catalysts and foot-soldiers of the revolution, found in the frontlines of the struggle, acting in defence of the humanity and dignity of their people, representing their best and most noble values.
Ever since, our people have expected no less from their youth who, in turn, have obliged throughout these long decades, whatever the demands and sacrifices required. They did not stand idle in the fight against national oppression, and participated selflessly in the struggles waged by their people.
In so doing, they acted in the firm knowledge and conviction that their interests as youth were inseparable from those of their people as a whole. Their actions were consistent with what the people saw as their interests.
For their catalysing and death-defying role in the fight against apartheid, they invited themselves the fiercest wrath of the criminal system which unleashed all its forces of repression to break them down politically, socially, morally, culturally and economically.
As well as fighting the regime, the youth earned themselves the admiration and adoration of their people.
This day, therefore, owes its origins in the youth`s imperishable spirit and unsurpassed capacity and willingness to volunteer and sacrifice their services and their lives in the name of freedom, justice and peace.
To all of us it is both a day of mourning as it is a day for celebration. What we commemorate is not the moral bankruptcy of the apartheid system, but the moral superiority and indomitable spirit of the oppressed people.
It represents for us a thunderous intervention by the youth of South Africa to reclaim their birthright, the birthright of their people, a sacrosanct and noble revolutionary act to renounce colonialism and reassert our humanity. It represents a persistent refusal by the youth to succumb to oppression and humiliation. Their love for their country and their people refused it that they should accept it that they were less than human. They were not going to allow the inhuman and criminal system of apartheid to succeed.
This that we commemorate, therefore, is a celebration of the colossal volunteerism and sacrifices of our people as they struggled to free themselves from the bondage of oppression and to set themselves along the pathway towards social emancipation.
By 1976, it had become clear that apartheid was a hindrance on all development - political, social, cultural and economic - and the country had no possibility to make progress in all these spheres unless this system was liquidated in its entirety.
Like in earlier periods, the honour fell on the youth to ignite the fires of revolution and to propel the struggle forward!
As this year began, we celebrated the 90th Anniversary of the ANC. In homage to this titanic and heroic struggle, as well as in anticipation of the mammoth challenges that still lie ahead for our people, the ANC called this the Year of the Volunteer, summoning our people to continue to demonstrate the same unsurpassed capacity and willingness to volunteer and sacrifice in the name of freedom, justice and peace, to expand the frontiers of democracy and a better life and escalate the battle against poverty and underdevelopment.
What lies ahead of all of us, in this country as well as on this continent, is a sustained offensive against these conditions that still remind us of our terrible and evil past. All of us must understand this perfectly that the challenge of both our national and continental renaissance, as well as that of building a new and better world order, will require that each and everyone of us, South Africans and Africans all, act as agents for change, our own liberators.
In this regard, the youth of South Africa have a special role to play to continue to volunteer to push back the frontiers of poverty and underdevelopment, to defeat disease, illiteracy, ignorance and want. This work should truly define us as a generation at work to build a better life, the anchor of our society and its reason to hope and to dream. We should lead the efforts of our nation towards her reconstruction and development and swell the ranks of the volunteers!
Still guiding us should be the perspective that youth interests and those of our people as a whole are indivisible. Poverty constitutes an affront on our humanity and our consciences, but it also constitutes savage violence against those of our people who battle to survive the offensive conditions of deprivation, suffering a humiliating loss of dignity.
The greatest challenge facing the peoples of our country and continent today, indeed humankind as a whole, is that of eradicating poverty and ending the privation of the majority of the people who live on nothing. Accordingly, as President Mbeki stated, the plight of the poor is at the top of our agenda, both as a government and nation.
The call to volunteerism is dedicated exactly at this banishment of poverty and provides our nation and youth, in particular, with the possibility and medium to mobilise the spirit of letsema or volunteerism, all of us lending a hand to improve the conditions of the poor.
We cannot, as this generation, ride on the accolades of the previous generations. If do not make our own sacrifices and engage in our own volunteerism, we do not deserve the respect and adoration of our nation. That, we must earn! Today`s generations of youth must still embark on their own heroic feats of struggle to earn this admiration and adoration of the nation.
We must wage another June 16th Uprising in education, sports, arts, culture and moral regeneration, striving for excellence and success in whatever we do in these fields. Linked to this is the urgency for the youth of this country to be found at the forefront of the moral regeneration movement in order to help our revolution create a new person, new young women and men, consistent with the new society we are creating.
With regard to the economy, we must persistently work for the participation of youth. The socio-economic difficulties faced by the black youth require the urgent attention of the nation as a whole to empower and equip them with better possibilities to accomplish their future tasks ahead of our national and continental renaissance.
This nation should be concerned about the increasing numbers of youth that are out-of-school, out-of-work and without access to training and skills development and self-employment opportunities whereas there are sufficient resources within the government and the private sector to make a huge and lasting impact on this situation of youth unemployment which, however, are not reaching the youth.
Whilst the government has done a lot has done to address the interests of the youth in the economy such as establishing the Umsobomvu Youth Fund, more should still be done to stimulate youth employment, skills development as well as self-employment.
As we pay tribute to the valiant youth of 1976, we must also lower our banners in solemn homage to great African titans and illuminators, Oom Govan Mbeki, Joe Modise, Steve Tshwete, Curnick Ndlovu, Peter Mokaba, Zibuse Zuma and many others whose lives were spent in service rendered to the cause of freedom.
The injunction of their lives is that we should ourselves never betray the cause of freedom and that, once attained, we should never take this freedom for granted.
In paying tribute to past heroes and heroines, we know that our people will continue, during this period, to give birth to new heroes and heroines, to new titans of the struggle. Like those to whom we today pay tribute, we too owe our people our lives and services!
ANC Youth League