#YouthDay: Zuma urges youth to emulate class of '76

The president will today lay a wreath at the Hector Pieterson Memorial as the country commemorates Youth Day.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma (centre) Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As the country commemorates 40 years since thousands of students marched through the streets of Soweto, President Jacob Zuma will today lay a wreath at the Hector Pieterson Memorial.

The president is expected to address scores of youth at the Orlando Stadium and remember the legacy of the young people of 1976, who fought against the apartheid government.

The day will also celebrate the efforts made by young people today.

Pupils, wearing their uniform and special June 16 t-shirts, are slowly arriving at the stadium ahead of celebrations.

In recent months, the country has seen protests by university students, calling for the scrapping of fees and better policies around rape and sexual assault.

Zuma has called on young people to emulate the bravery, resilience and discipline displayed by the youth of 1976.

Ahead of today's celebrations, the president has hailed the group which displayed 'incredible courage and determination' to liberate themselves and the country.

He says young people have to work together to move South Africa forward.

Zuma says government remains committed to the struggle for total economic emancipation and youth development.

He has called on students to use education to change their lives and their communities.


Students of 1976 are remembering the day 40 years ago when police opened fire on them.

Former student leader Murphy Morobe says he remembers how he went numb when the police opened fire on students united in the fight against an oppressive education system.

Morobe says that fateful day is still alive in his memory as he relives it every year.

He says he felt helpless as a leader of the march.

"The first feeling of numbness as you hear the shots go off... initially you think the shooting is taking place over your head."

Dan Moyane, who also participated in the protest, says he has mixed emotions about today's commemorations.

"I've just driven down the road we took 40 years ago as youth in Soweto, and there are many memories."

He says, "I lost friends and neighbours."


While many celebrate Youth Day today, experts have commented on recent unemployment figures.

Some experts say entrepreneurship could alleviate the high unemployment rate among South Africa's youth.

A recent Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) report shows the country's unemployment is at a 10 year high, with the biggest portion being among young people.

At least 67.3 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed.

While this number halves for people between the ages of 25 and 34, it remains at least 10 percent higher than in any other group.

Professor Murray Leibbrandt says youth unemployment is at its worst.

"It is the worst ever right now and the economy is in a bad shape. We are also moving through this time in our history where young people make up a large portion of our population."

Business Partner Limited's Gugu Mjadu says for entrepreneurship to be a solution to the unemployment problem, it should be seen as a feasible career choice.

"It is very important to groom youth from an early age so that they view entrepreneurship as the way to go. Many don't view entrepreneurship as a career choice."