Youth Day should be a day dedicated to highlighting and discussing issues facing the current generation and not dwelling on what had happened during the 1976 student uprising, which began in Soweto and spread throughout the country.
So says Sibusiso Zonke, 26, ANC Youth League convener, in Site C, when asked how he thinks the Soweto student uprising should be commemorated by the current generation.
Mr Zonke is a third year law student at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
He told Vukani that the youth of South Africa face countless challenges such as a high unemployment rate, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, gangsterism and expensive tuition fees at tertiary institutions.
He lambasted the government for failing to prioritise youth issues and not providing them with much needed platforms to discuss youth-related issues.
He said the apparent lack of youth representation in all spheres of government is a concern as it prevents their voices from being heard.
He said almost 60% of the population of the country is youth but the government has not yet established youth parliaments that would allow young people to address their own issues.
He believes Youth Day will always remain a day of commemoration as long as the government fails to allow young people to use the day to voice their concerns and make suggestions on how to take the country forward.
He said the commemorations of the day is slowly losing its significance because most young people are tired of listening to the government preaching about the same heroic actions made by the youth of 1976, instead of allowing young people to be in charge of the events of the day.
“We do acknowledge the great sacrifices made by the youth of 1976 as they resisted to be taught in Afrikaans. And we say to them kudos for their heroic actions. But now it is our time to use the day to define our own struggle.
“As long as the government does not establish youth forums and platforms to give young people an opportunity to draft policies that we think might be vital in curbing the challenges that we face, we will never fully recognise the importance of the day.
“And the government will never overcome the challenges we face.
“The likes of Fikile Mbalula, Minister of Sport and Recreation, and Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Home Affairs, are no longer the youth because they are above 35 years and the government can’t say we have youth representation because they have them in Parliament,” he said.
Mr Zonke said the core message that needs to be conveyed by the government at these commemorations is how they are planning to make education accessible and affordable, particularly to black people who cannot afford the expensive fees charged by the universities.
He said the recent student protests against fee increases show the underlying problems that need to be tackled immediately in the education system.
Mr Zonke said the Freedom Charter, which is the cornerstone of our freedom, clearly states that the doors of learning should be opened to all, but now the government is shutting those doors.
“In 2013 and 2014, I was excluded from UWC because I could not pay the R38 000 that was required from me.
“We as black people including coloureds, we are deprived of an opportunity to learn because our parents are not able to afford the fees.
“The government claims and says we are born free while we are shackled by the chains of the past,” he said.
He said he was shocked when Lindiwe Sisulu, the Minister of Human Settlements , said the youth should not be considered for the allocation of RDP houses while the same government she works for fails to provide employment opportunities for the youth.
“I believe that the whole month of June should be put aside to tackles all issues related to the youth. Things like dialogues and debates need to be hosted for the entire month to allow us to find solutions to our problems and ensure that the government implements these resolutions,” he said.