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Media Centre  |  Youth Today

The youth must find their natural purpose or else…

5 August 2015

This year’s Youth Month marks 39 years since the 1976 student uprising, which began in Soweto. Most of us know that the youth uprising contributed to the eventual downfall of apartheid. However, many forget that it began with a call by the youth of South Africa for equal education.

Theirs was a struggle to ensure that “higher education and technical training doors shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit”.
These powerful words were captured in the Freedom Charter.

When scores of those young people descended on the streets of Soweto, they had one thing in common and that is to liberate themselves and people from the system of oppression. They were at their wit’s end, and their mission was to send a strong message to the oppressor and the world that they had enough of the decades of racial oppression.

When these young people marched through the Soweto streets, they were not only expressing their outrage towards the brutal force of apartheid domination but were beginning a war that was to be waged against the entire system and place the aspirations of young black people at the center of the broader mass democratic revolution that had been started by their forebearers such as Anton Lembede, Mxolisi Majombozi, Nelson Mandela and many more who contributed immensely in the crafting of Freedom Charter, many years before the 1976 student uprisings commenced.

What is common about these historic events (the adoption of the Freedom Charter and Soweto Student Uprising) is that there has been a move from matter to form. In both events, there was a drive to achieve a natural purpose, which the two groups were striving for. In his theory of knowledge, the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle explains that“all things have a natural purpose, a goal that which things are striving for.”

Therefore, we need to ask the question, what is the natural purpose of youth of today? The 1976-generation rejected the apartheid policies (matter) and demanded justice (form). The current generation must swiftly and diligently move towards discovering their natural purpose and confront their enemy, which is poverty, unemployment, crime, etc.

There is a dual relationship between the state and society or between youth and government that is better captured by the unwritten principle of the Peoples Contract. By definition a contract creates duties and obligations. In realizing and achieving its potential, which is its natural purpose the youth must consciously and consistently engage government through relevant platforms. Youth has an inherent duty via peoples contract to work and cooperate with government institution in order to advance the better quality of life for all. The youth of today must be at the forefront and lead a societal conversation to deal with social-economic challenges without down playing the role of the state in a developmental state. The youth must also robustly engage the private sector to invest in sustainable programs that are targeted at youth development and empowerment.

The youth of today must not mince their words about the structural problems related to the land question. We all know that a growing and stable economy is largely attributed to how it uses its natural resources to feed the populace.
For instance, we can’t be importing maze and chicken which is regarded as one of basic needs for staple food in South Africa.

We can’t be doing this when young people are idling the streets with our skills and jobs. For the youth to arrive in the natural purpose, they need to be honest and frank about the current allocation of natural resources in the current democratic dispensation, even if that will hurt some investors in a short-term.
We can never defeat poverty if the issue of land disposition is left unchallenged.

Thembelani Mpakati is the Chairperson of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) at National Treasury and is writing in his personal capacity.