The tragedy of youth unemployment demands the spirit of ‘76
Lindiwe Mazibuko, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance
16 June 2012
This is an extract of the speech that was delivered by DA Parliamentary Leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko MP at the DA National Youth Day event in Soweto.
Today Helen, Makashule, Mbali, Mmusi and I marked Youth Day by visiting Mama Violet Mabaso, the mother of youth activist, Thili Mabaso.
At the age of 9 Thili was murdered in cold blood by the state security forces in the 1976 uprisings. Meeting Mama Violet today was both humbling and inspiring. Where there was pain, Mama Violet showed grace. Where where there was injury, Mama Violet showed forgiveness.
Times have moved on since that day of infamy that repulsed the world. Our memories, however, have not. How extraordinary it was that the best human qualities were summoned forth by the youngest and most innocent in a time of depravity and evil. Love and courage were not in short supply that day.
uMama has shown us that when we strive to build a united future from a broken past, we must embrace love, forgiveness and reconciliation. And so we become loving, forgiving and reconciling people.
We are grateful to uMama for receiving us today. I will never forget this encounter, and I will always cherish it. Siyabonga, Mama Violet.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has chosen to launch our Faces of Youth Unemployment Campaign here in Soweto today. The reason is simple: today’s crisis of unemployment is every bit a matter of life and death as the struggle waged by the Class of ’76. We say this not to incite or divide, but rather to call for action, and action now.
The central purpose of our campaign has been to put a human face to the crisis of youth unemployment. This is not the time for cold statistics, it is a time for empathy and understanding. Let us paint a clear picture of the face of unemployment in South Africa today. Half of all South Africans below the age of 25 are unemployed. That means that one in two young people you pass in the street, see at church or the mosque, travel with in a taxi, or sit next to at the clinic, does not have a job.
Like every national crisis, unemployment demands a national response.
As you all know, the DA recently marched to Cosatu’s headquarters re in Johannesburg because the union federation is blocking job creation. Many of you were there that day, and I'm sure you will not soon forget how our democratic demonstration was met with violence and contempt.
The real tragedy is that for some in our country, youth unemployment is not enough of a crisis to warrant bold interventions. For some, their personal political ambitions are more important than the ambition of our young people to live lives they value. This, in my view, is a national unity issue.
Indeed, last year Parliament voted the government the funds to implement the Youth Wage Subsidy precisely because this is an issue which requires that every political party look beyond their own interest. Unfortunately, a young person sitting at home without a job would never have gained that impression because of the government’s continued stand-off with an unelected organisation which is holding it ransom.
No one in the government or the DA who supports the youth wage subsidy has ever claimed that this policy will simply make unemployment disappear. But it will give many young people dignity, and a foothold on the ladder of opportunity.
On this day when we remember the bravery of the fallen, my appeal to the President is to let South Africa draw a line under this issue. Take a stand on behalf of the young people who look to you for leadership. Implement the Youth Wage Subsidy without delay.
But for now, today, let us salute the class of ’76, and say to them once more: ‘Thank you’.