The President must act now on Youth Wage Subsidy
Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance
10 September 2012
This is an extract of the speech delivered today by Helen Zille at the Union Buildings, Pretoria, during a youth wage subsidy protest. The memorandum that was handed over to the Presidency can be seen here.
Over the last six weeks, the Democratic Alliance has campaigned across South Africa. We have worked hard to put the stories of the millions of South Africans who are unemployed onto the national agenda, and to talk about our plans to grow the economy and create jobs.
Today’s event does not mark the end of our campaign to get South Africa growing and working. We're just getting started. Ultimately, we aim to govern South Africa so that we can ensure that South Africa’s economy works for the many, not the few.
At the moment it is divided between insiders and outsiders. The insiders in our economy are those who use their political connections and “elite club status” to secure their access to top jobs, tenders, contracts and security. The outsiders have none of those things. It is for them that we have come here today.
We are joined today by 423 young unemployed South Africans, each of whom represent one thousand young unemployed South Africans who would benefit from the youth wage subsidy - 423 000 people. Many of them may have already been working if the youth wage subsidy had been implemented on 1 April 2010. But it was not, and since then the government has been too divided to implement it at all.
As we stand here at the foot of the highest office in the land, we bring President Jacob Zuma a simple message: ‘The DA will not rest until every South Africa has the opportunity to enjoy the dignity of an honest day’s work’. The nation is calling out for action, and action today.
The biggest tragedy of the new South Africa is that we have been unable to leverage political freedom to achieve economic freedom. Let us be clear. It was not the ANC that divided our economy and set up the system of insiders and outsiders. Apartheid did that, and the ANC have perpetuated it, and in some ways deepened it.
We have got to change the way our economy works and give every South African a fair shot at building a better future for themselves and their families - we will never undue the wrongs of apartheid unless we do that, and we'll never achieve our potential as a nation. The DA's plans to change the economy are both morally right and job creating.
As we have gone into every community, we have heard many stories from what are sometimes called 'ordinary people'. Well, for the DA, South Africans are anything but ‘ordinary’. In difficult circumstances and great need, our people have courage, grit and resourcefulness.
More than ever, we believe there is nothing wrong with South Africa that cannot be fixed by what is right with South Africa.
Our campaign coincided with the Marikana tragedy. This underlined an important question that all South Africans have been asking: ‘what kind of country do we want to live in?’ The answer we heard was clear: ‘we want to live in a country where every person, no matter who they are or where they come from, gets a fair chance in life’.
When we began preparing for this campaign, the DA knew we had to be honest and credible. For over a year, we had worked hard to develop our Growth and Jobs Plan.
Talking to experts in academia, business, commerce and government, we carefully looked at South Africa’s complex economic and social make-up and examined what works in other countries. Most importantly, we listened to you; what South African people themselves are telling us. So we have learnt a lot more than we knew before. That’s the point of public service.
We discovered that South Africans know exactly what the experts confirm. They know that there are no easy quick-fix solutions, and that today’s world is complex and interdependent. Young people especially understand that to gain a foothold on the ladder of opportunity is difficult, and that there will be setbacks along the way.
Difficult times demand solutions that work. The DA has long championed the youth wage subsidy as one of the best ways to get many jobless young South Africans into the workplace for the first time. It would benefit over 423 000 young people. The ripple effect in the wider community and economy would be even greater.
We have not met one young person out of work, or in a job, who thought that the youth wage subsidy was a bad idea. In the Western Cape, where the DA is in government, the youth wage subsidy is already starting to work, although we do not have access to the R5-billion stuck in the national Treasury’s budget. We have had to take money from other important projects to fund it. But it is worth it because we see how it is changing young people’s lives, inspiring hope.
The opponents of the youth wage subsidy are out of excuses. It is time to show them that enough is enough.
The 423 young people here today are wearing t-shirts with the word “unemployed”. They are carrying posters with the “faces of the unemployed” on them; real young people, not cold statistics.
Today, the leadership of the DA will hand over a memorandum to a representative from the Presidency, asking the President to use the power of his office to introduce the youth wage subsidy now. He must stop using Nedlac as an excuse for inaction. He can implement it tomorrow if he wills, and everyone knows that.
In a short ceremony, the young people will then place their posters in front of the representative.
It is never too late to do the right thing, and the President would have the full support of the DA and, indeed, of South Africa, if he does so. The President can be moved to action. Or he can continue to put his own job security above South Africa’s. The choice is his. History will judge him and his government accordingly.