The following speech was delivered in Parliament by DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP, during SONA Debate 2016.
The President’s State of the Nation Address last week made it patently clear that the ANC does not regard the issues facing young South Africans as significant, or urgent.
In his speech, the President did not present a single plan devoted to improving the lives of South Africa’s youth.
He made no mention of Basic Education, the Fees Must Fall Movement and Youth Unemployment, the three most significant issues facing young South Africans today.
It is alarming, that in a country where the population is largely made up of young people, that the President would not devote a significant portion of his speech, to this sector of society.
This shows a President that is not only completely out of touch, but simply does not care about young people.
The only time the President mentioned young people was when he asked us to register to vote.
This is how the ANC sees young people, as voting cattle, and not as a sector of society whose views need to be taken seriously and needs catered for.
Millions of South Africa’s young people look you to you, Mr President, to provide certainty and hope for the future.
Young South Africans yearn for bold, innovative, comprehensive and workable plans to move the country forward.
Your speech, sadly, provided none of this for our young people.
I am sure that it has become clear, even for ANC voters, that the only way in which a better South Africa will be achieved is not only when President Zuma is gone, but also the whole of the ANC.
Fellow young people, there is no messiah that will suddenly bring change to the ANC.
It has repeatedly shown resistance to moral reform, it is now time to vote it out of power.
It is absolutely possible to build a better South Africa for our young people.
A South Africa where the extraordinary potential of all our people is realised.
One where the structural inequalities caused by colonialism and Apartheid are dismantled.
A South Africa that is dynamic and vibrant and a leader in the developing world.
A South Africa we can all be proud of.
But before we provide the solutions to our young people, we need to understand the problems.
What are conditions that our young people are living under?
According to UCT’s 2015 Child Gauge the specter of poverty haunts South Africa’s children before they even leave the womb.
Half of our young people, Honourable Speaker, live in poverty.
This poverty is experienced not only as a form of financial deprivation, but also a lack of access to basic services, healthcare, quality education and protection from crime.
Last year’s #FeesMustFall movement sharply demonstrated the problems of access to higher education.
The insensitive and out-of-touch comments from some ANC leaders at the legitimate concerns of our students were absolutely disgraceful.
Some like the President of the ANC Women’s League, Bathabile Dlamini, claimed that the #FeesMustFall movement was funded by “foreign forces”, and others, like ANC Youth League President, Collen Maine accused students of treason.
The DA stands in support of all students that have called for additional funding to be allocated to universities.
No South African should be denied the opportunity to pursue tertiary education because they do not have money.
The manner in which our universities have been underfunded is one of post-Apartheid South Africa’s greatest tragedies.
A greater tragedy is how R361 million has been pilfered from historically disadvantaged institutions to fund last year’s moratorium on fee increases.
The ANC sometimes governs like Young Black Lives Do Not Matter.
The DA looks forward to the announcement on university funding by Minister Gordhan as promised by the President Zuma in his State of the Nation address.
It is however, unfathomable how this funding will be found, given that the only budget cuts that were announced during the SONA were minor and will do very little to meet the estimated R7.8 billion needed to also cater for the so-called missing middle.
If you really want to find funding for universities, Mr President, you would cut the number of ministries to 15, that is already a R4.2 billion saving.
And why, Mr President, is the Commission of Inquiry into Funding of the Higher Education Sector still yet to meet if you truly take this crisis seriously? Proceedings at this commission must get underway urgently
The next higher education crisis looming, Honourable Speaker, is at our TVET colleges.
The syllabi at these institutions are generally out of date, markers are unqualified, and exam papers largely inconsistent.
It is a disgrace, Minister Nzimande, that over 100 000 students are still waiting for their certificates, with some students waiting since 2013.
Fix our TVET institutions before it is too late.
Another key problem facing our young people, Honourable Speaker, is unemployment.
The unemployment rate amongst our youth is more than twice that of adults.
In 2015 as many as 5, 4 million young people were unemployed, with young women forming the bulk of this.
Post-recession increases in employment for adults between the years 2011 to 2014 were not matched by equivalent increases amongst the youth. In fact, in 2011 and in 2013 youth unemployment increased. It was young black youth that suffered the most as a result.
The ANC sometimes governs, like Young Black Lives Do Not Matter.
These, Mr President, in a nutshell, are some of the conditions that many of South Africa’s young people find themselves in, there are many more.
The solutions to the challenges are quite simple, and require political will, dedicated leadership, laser like focus and having the right plan.
The DA’s Five Point Plan for Jobs is an all-encompassing plan, which if implemented, will not only create employment, but also result in:
- Increased investment in energy, transport and ICT;
- Give more people education and skills;
- Radically reform the labour regime;
- Providing direct incentives for job creation; and
- Creating a nation of entrepreneurs.
Through implementing these and other policies, the Western Cape is now the best place to live if you are a young person.
At 29.9%, the DA-run Western Cape has the lowest youth unemployment rate in the country, compared to provinces such as the Northern and Eastern Cape, which have rates of 45.1% and 41% respectively.
The Western Cape also has the highest absorption rate of young people into the economy at 43.2% and the lowest amount of young discouraged work-seekers at 1.2%.
This means that more young people are finding employment in the Western Cape than anywhere in the country, and have more hope of doing so.
By focusing on improving the quality of education, the Western Cape achieved a pass rate of 84.7% last year, the highest in the country.
It is the only province that had an improved its pass rate where every single learner who passed matric in the Western Cape passed with access to higher education.
The Western Cape is not only better in terms of education and employment, but also the lives at home for our young people are better than other provinces, although not perfect.
According to the 2014 Non-Financial Census of Municipalities, the Western Cape has the highest proportion of households benefitting from free basic water, electricity, sewerage and sanitation; as well as solid waste management.
It is therefore no wonder that thousands of young South Africans will for the first time vote DA in their municipalities, and the ANC stands to lose even more support.
The DA governs well, and governs better.
The ANC showed through its President’s State of the Nation Address last week that it is an out-of-touch party that does not care about our young people, and is on its way out.