OPINION: A 19-year-old student's requests to Ramaphosa ahead of Sona
Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa,
Today, I am writing to you as a patriotic 19-year-old South African from the City of Cape Town, on behalf of many young people out there.
Before drafting this letter, I made an appeal to fellow young men and women to submit any questions and ideas that they may have for you ahead of this year's State of the Nation Address.
Ahead of what would be your 5th address as President of the Republic of South Africa, I thought it would be fit for me to raise some issues with you on behalf of young people.
The last year has been a very tough one considering the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on ourselves, our friends and families, our country, and the world at large. However, I think it would only be fair for us to admit that the problems that we are facing as a nation, have persisted long before COVID-19 was even discovered in South Africa.
I wish to emphasise that this letter should not be taken as an attack on you as president, but rather as a respectful way of expression from a young person’s point of view – especially since we are the ones who will inherit this country once our parents and grandparents have passed.
Mr President, I think it is safe to say that we are far from being the nation that the late former president Nelson Mandela envisioned us to be when he was elected as South Africa’s first democratic president in 1994. Our democracy seems to be under threat by those who are serving their own interests in government. They ought to hang their heads in shame.
Today, as I write you this letter, my heart bleeds for this nation of ours. Yes, many young people probably think I am insane for loving my country the way I do; however, nothing will ever change the fact that I would do anything for South Africa. It is for this reason that I am begging you to be the change that we all wish to see in government.
Mr President, as mentioned before, we, the youth, are the future. We are the ones who will take over the reins one day. We are the ones that will have to fix what has been broken and will have to pay what is owed.
In April last year, you announced a R500 billion stimulus package for South Africa during COVID-19. There have been various reports about money that have been stolen, or even used to enrich self-serving politicians and their friends or even family.
Out of the many submissions received from young people, one of those included a submission from Taneal Booysen, a student at the University of the Western Cape.
“Where is the R500 billion?”
Mr President, today I am requesting that you make public a full report, which details where and how the R500 billion was spent. As you should know, transparency is one of the key tenets of a democracy. I am sure that many South Africans would appreciate transparency in this regard.
Another submission received was from Dain Scheepers, a student from the Northlink College in Belhar, Cape Town, and his request reads as follows:
“Improve the education system”
Mr President, after 26 years of democracy, our education system still seems to be failing our children. From broken infrastructure, to lack of resources, it just does not end. The recent budget cut from the education sector by the National Treasury, under Minister Tito Mboweni’s watch, is one of the greatest insults to our scholars and teachers.
I am appealing to you, Mr President, to prioritise what needs to be prioritised.
We cannot suffer like this any longer. We cannot watch how things that matter the least, such as South African Airlines (SAA), receive additional bailouts at the expense of key departments such as education and policing. I do not see why we should have a state-owned airline when it can be sold to the private sector.
I received another submission, this time from Brett Harris, originally from Gauteng and a student at the University of the Western Cape. His submission reads as follows:
“I am asking the President for better public healthcare facilities. Public clinics and hospitals are scary”
President Ramaphosa, whilst the lockdown was initially put in place to allow for government to increase hospital capacity, it seems as though nothing has changed. Public healthcare facilities are still failing to provide adequate healthcare services to the public. There are still many hospitals in South Africa that are on the verge of collapse due to infrastructure that has not been maintained for years.
Apart from the many issues raised above, an education student from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Clint Stoffels, made the following submission:
“Remove having to choose an ethnicity group when applying for a job, institution etc. Make it mandatory for all companies to scrap the "experience required" and make them offer training no matter which job title there is a vacancy for, maybe more young people would be employed.”
These are just some of the submissions received. Unfortunately, if I had to add everything, you would probably never stop reading – which might even be the cause of you missing your #SONA2021 speech – something we would not want.
Mr President, today I am begging you to stand firm. I am begging you to take the lead. I am begging you to protect our democracy. I am begging you to put South Africa first.
With that being said, I trust that you will take these points into account and act decisively in the best interests of the people of South Africa.
I wish you everything of the best for Thursday night’s State of the Nation Address and trust that we will, hopefully soon, be able to sit down for a chat over a cup of tea at Tuynhuys.
I pray for God’s blessing over you, your government, South Africa, and its people.
Zeke Wareley is youth activist in the City of Cape Town. He has served as a junior City Councillor (2016/17) and is currently pursuing a political studies degree at the University of the Western Cape. You can follow them on Twitter at @zekewareley