- Press Statements
- 2010 NGC
- National Congresses
Youth action to seize the opportunities of democracy: Pushing back the frontiers of poverty
16 June 2003
Today, on June 16th, our people salute the youth for daring to rise up against the tyrant`s might and to give a lie to the notion that the apartheid regime was invincible.
What started as a class boycott by the Form 2 students of Orlando West High School, culminated into a bloody and titanic confrontation between the fascist minority regime and the young representatives of our future. This ignited solidarity action in other parts of the country and quickly developed into a national strike movement by the youth, demanding that apartheid be replaced by a popular government.
The verdict of June 16 was loud and clear - apartheid had failed! Our people wanted it dismantled by all means, including those that demanded of them the highest sacrifices.
These unprecedented events in Soweto and other parts of South Africa became significant milestones in the development of the liberation struggle, coinciding as they did with monumental events in Southern Africa - in Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe. This gave hope to our people that our own victory was imminent.
June 16th was decisive in re-awakening our people and mobilising national and international action against apartheid. It served as a prelude into the next phase of the struggle during the roaring eighties.
The progress we have made since that fateful day is immeasurable; the vision of 1976 is no longer merely a pipedream, it has become a fact of life in our country. However, a sad irony is that many young people have begun today to take our freedom, democracy and rights for granted. Parents and older generations of youth have stopped narrating the story of 1976, to teach the youth and raise their courage and patriotism. In this way, rights are detached from responsibilities.
In observing the 1976 uprising every year, we ensure that it traverses with us into the future, allowing us each year to measure the progress we have made since that heroic day and to discern clearly the challenges that still lie ahead for the youth and people of South Africa. It reminds us of the tragedy into which our country was once plunged and the role the youth played to move us to where we are today.
Today, the challenges faced by the youth are enormous and differ sharply from those that faced the generations of youth before and after 1976. Whereas mammoth challenges still lie ahead for the youth, today, they have a government that is committed comprehensively to fulfilling their needs. Immense opportunities have been created for the youth to seize.
The strategic goal of our struggle is the reconstruction and development of our country, for the eradication of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, as well as poverty. Integral to this task is the question of an integrated and sustainable youth development programme. The aspirations of the youth for development are integral to those of our people as a whole and they must be central and play a special role in the pursuit of both these goals.
Of course, many among our youth often make the statement that whereas the youth of 1976 knew what they were fighting against or for, the youth of today have no goal and no vision.
Yesterday we fought to defeat apartheid tyranny and to replace it with a democratic government. Once we defeated apartheid, we knew we would have to build a democratic state and construct a democratic society. But, the end of the apartheid system would not mean the resolution of all the problems bred by that system. The vision of the youth to defeat apartheid would then have to graduate into a vision to build a democratic and prosperous society.
Yesterday, the youth earned their respect in society because of the role they played to bring apartheid to the end. They were responsible in the execution of the struggle and were always the first to volunteer. Because of this, they occupied a special place in the hearts of our people and were regarded as a reliable and responsible force for freedom.
Today, our struggle has entered a new epoch. The critical question of the day today is the mobilisation of the youth to take responsibility, both for their own development as well as for the reconstruction and development of our country. Seizing the opportunities of democracy is about taking responsibility to raise our struggle to a new level. It is about the vitally important spirit and practice of Vuk` uzenzele!
This year, more than ever, we must succeed effectively to pursue youth development through youth mobilisation and, inversely, to pursue youth mobilisation through youth development. The challenge for the youth is to improve their competence in all fields in which they are involved; to raise their level of political understanding and their discipline, to become better cadres for the victory of our struggle.
To seize the opportunities of democracy is central to pushing back the frontiers of poverty. It means that we must make progress on all fronts and, in everything we do, strive for excellence!
What we need to do to seize the opportunities of democracy is to,
- Take advantage of the open doors of learning and culture - to deepen our knowledge, enhance our skills and capacity and improve our people`s cultural levels;
- Intensify the campaign for youth economic participation to end youth economic marginalisation by developing their skills, job and self-employment opportunities;
- Engage the challenges of science and technology, especially through increasing the volumes of youth studying natural and mathematical sciences, indeed to leap our country into the information age, and to improve our country`s capacity to develop and enhance our people`s lives;
- Participate in sports and continue to fight for transformation; pay more attention to women`s sports and encourage young women actively to participate in all sports codes; and strengthen our local, school and varsity/technikon/college sports clubs and associations;
- Confront the challenges of health by leading the offensive against poverty, volunteering for health education and awareness, fighting HIV/AIDS comprehensively and supporting community service for medical students;
- Build a Youth Contract for a better South Africa by forging partnerships with other partners against poverty;
- Continue to strengthen and support the youth development institutions;
- Forge a broad youth front for reconstruction and development and for youth development; and
- Empower young women, fight sexism and create gender equality through conscious and concerted political and socio-economic programmes.
A great decade lies ahead of us to continue to champion the all-round political and socio-economic aspirations of the youth. Critical also to what we do is to intensify the global war against poverty, for peace and Africa`s development. We must NEPADise the South African youth and lobby for the establishment of an AU youth organ.
27 years ago when that heroic standoff between the forces of democracy and the evil forces of tyranny on 16 June 1976 took place, South Africa was everywhere an oppressed country which had no possibility to make progress on any front. Today, that picture has radically and irreversibly changed.
Despite the immense challenges that we face, the future is brightening daily, giving us new possibilities. The call of duty today for all youth is to seize the opportunities of democracy. They must do so with courage, foresight and determination!