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The tinderbox of Youth Unemployment

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The tinderbox of Youth Unemployment

On 16 June 1976 a watershed event took place that would change South Africa forever and impact the whole world.

It was when a group of learners decided enough is enough and took to the streets to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as an official medium of instruction at African schools.

The masters wanted to make formal what was already taking place in schools whereby black oppressed learners were forced to learn in the language of the master.

Many thousands of km’s away Oliver Tambo immediately grasped the significance of this event and it spurred the movement on to put more diplomatic pressure on the illegitimate regime of the Apartheid government in South Africa.

Today we have massive pressures due to Youth Unemployment. Our youth is even more politically conscious than the youth of 1976.

Today they have Facebook, WhatsApp etc. and other social media platforms and it was rumoured that the Arab Spring was driven by social media as youth could organise country wide in real time with each other.

Our Youth can see that their poverty and inequality stem directly from unemployment.

Already South Africa is facing a chance to be categorised as the most unequal society in the world because of our GINI score and HDI (Human Development Index).

A country with so much mineral wealth and which is the most industrialised country in Africa with the most powerful army having some of the best weaponry on the continent.

With the TVET colleges training more skilled technicians expecting to be absorbed into a company needing their skills and with graduates and diplomats not being able to walk into jobs with their newly acquired qualifications we reaching the situation prior to 16 June 1976.  

This has been made worse due to Covid-19 but our youth are forgiving and understand Covid-19 was something which happened beyond the control of any government but what the youth cannot forgive our government for is the billions which was stolen from Eskom leading to the current stage 6 load shedding which drives our economy further into the abyss.

Without economic growth there can not be job creation and thus absorption of qualified youth into the world of work. Where as with Covid-19 most jobs could resume where they left off with Load shedding jobs are being shed at the same time leading to greater frustration by those youth who were employed albeit for a short period of time.

Although South Africa is the most technologically advanced country in Africa and is the gateway to Africa for many other technologies, this means nothing with load shedding currently plaguing our country due to mismanagement and lack of leadership to tackle things head on.

The poor maintenance of roads and railway lines as well as the total collapse of SAA has increased costs to many companies which have lead to more unemployment and in this process many thousands of youth have lost jobs.

It is a miracle and a unique phenomenon that in South Africa no animosity was felt towards the erstwhile oppressors especially by the youth of the oppressed. Youth also know that in a capitalist society 80% of wealth is enjoyed by 20%  of the people yet our youth is satisfied with the situation because for them a job is not just a means of wealth creation but it is a means to have dignity.

Without being employed youth sit around and do nothing constructive with their lives, with no job you cannot provide the basic needs for your family and is thus robbed of the dignity to be a provider for your family. In Africa society not being able to provide for your family is a great source of embarrassment and a sign of weakness.

Although the 4th Industrial Revolution bringing with it, it’s attendant information technology making things easier for youth to obtain information especially for those in the rural areas with less access to information resources such as libraries or department of labour data bases.

The information technology today has also made youth less dependent on government but information technology has not been able to free us from bad government, corruption and poor leadership. I hope the 5th Industrial Revolution will give us the tools to get rid of that.

In the meanwhile in South Africa with the youth not being able to be gainfully employed we have in the rural areas youth unemployment as high as 80%.

With all these youth siting around we find already police statistics show a rising tide in crime involving youth.  We see greater incidences of assaults at and around taverns involving youth. We even see greater numbers of babies being born from youth fathers and at the same time a worrying rise in HIV numbers as well.

The youth have been to a large degree behind the DudulaMovement and most of our xenophobic attacks has had youth behind it’s occurrence.

As youth feel more and more excluded by society due to unemployment they get a sense of being seen as useless to society and naturally trying to give significance to their lives and wanting to make a contribution to their family support they turn to crime.

Not addressing issues such as corruption and load shedding is impacting our country in ways which we many not be able to recover long after we have solved the load shedding crisis in this country and for this we need leadership.

Good strong leadership who can lead and provide leadership in a time we need it.

The inequality and poverty increases by the day for each day youth are unemployed and we may reach a point where even if our fortunes as a country change some of our youth may be lost forever, which will lead to a cost to the economy of the country when government need to deal with it in future.

Right now in many rural towns there are skilled and qualified youth sitting idly on their hands all dressed up and now where to go.

I trust that our State President will give the issue of Youth Unemployment over to our future new deputy state president as our current president has too many other issues to deal with.

We need this focus on youth if we are not  to have a repeat of 16 June 1976 when blacks were mostly high school trained , today varsity and college trained students are sitting at home doing nothing.  The ball is in your court Government. Do not fail our youth.

Masibongwe Sihlahla

Independent Researcher and writer


Writes in his Personal Capacity

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