'Your country needs you': President Cyril Ramaphosa's June 16 speech in full
"Rise up," says President Cyril Ramaphosa to young people on the June 16 commemoration on Wednesday.
On this day forty-five years ago, brave young women and men in Soweto and other parts of our country rose up against injustice.
Unarmed, and in their school uniforms, they came out in their numbers, shouting ‘down with Afrikaans.’ They were taking a stand against a cruel and unjust system. They were rebelling against Bantu Education, which, despite its name, was no education at all.
It was another tool of the apartheid system to keep black South Africans in servitude. On June 16th and in the days that followed, many young people lost their lives. Others were forced into hiding and exile.
We remember Hector Pieterson, Tsietsi Mashinini, Mbuyisa Makhubo, Sibongile MthembuMkhabela, Murphy Morobe, Zweli Sizane, Seth Mazibuko and the many other heroes of the 1976 uprising.
The young South Africans of 1976 spurred an international movement for the isolation of the apartheid regime. They lit a fire of resistance that the racist government of Pretoria would not be able to extinguish, no matter how hard they tried.
When many of our leaders were jailed or exiled, it was young people who showed the world that freedom is not given, but it is taken. We salute them. We owe our liberation to them, and to the many others who sacrificed so we could all be free today.
South Africa is an infinitely better place than it was in 1976. Young people have opportunities that were denied to their parents and grandparents. And yet we know that our challenges today are many.
Nearly 64% of young people in South Africa are unemployed. This is something no country can afford.
Young people are the force that drives a country and grows its economy.
Young people are a source of innovation and new ideas.
Young people have energy and talent.
Young people are resilient and never give up, even when it is difficult.
Right now, our economy is suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. A situation that was already bad, has gotten worse. We are putting young people at the centre of our national recovery. It is the singular focus of this administration to ensure that young people are given access to opportunities so they can better themselves, that they can drive change in their communities, and contribute to our economy.
As government we are driving a number of initiatives, some of which began before the pandemic. Although we have had to adjust our plans, we will not go back on our commitments. We launched the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention in February last year, just weeks before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in South Africa.
The Intervention includes a range of priority actions to boost youth employment over the next five years. Our goal is to become a country where every young person has a place to go – whether in further education and training, in skills development, in work experience, in entrepreneurship, in youth service or in formal employment.
Another initiative from which young people have benefited is the Presidential Employment Stimulus that began in October last year. The Presidential Employment Stimulus is now the largest public employment programme in our country, and is the fastest to reach such a large scale.
In the education sector alone, 320,000 young people have been placed as education assistants and general assistants in 24,000 public schools across the country. Of these, 65 per cent are young women They are working with our learners and helping to lighten the load for our educators.
Our teachers and principals are telling us that this programme is making a big difference. Many of the participants were unemployed before being given this opportunity. Now they are earning a living, enabling them to support themselves and their families, and to purchase goods and services that support local economies.
Through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, 50,000 subsistence farmers across the country have received input vouchers. Sixty per cent of these farmer are young people. Beneficiaries can use these vouchers to get inputs like feed, seeds, fertilizer and other goods they need to produce food.
As part of this programme we brought in 2,000 young agriculture studies graduates to help with beneficiary verification. For the first time we now have a database of subsistence farmers in South Africa. The Presidential Employment Stimulus has also supported over 10,000 jobs in business process outsourcing, with most of these jobs going to the youth.
Around 1,800 young people have been given jobs in a number of public works projects including the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme. With funding from the stimulus, 1,200 youth-owned micro enterprises have received support from the National Youth Development Agency.
Another successful programme that is continuing to create work opportunities for young black South Africans is the Youth Employment Service, known as YES. With the support of corporate partners it has created 55,000 work experiences since its inception, injecting R3.1 billion in youth salaries back into the economy.
In the coming year, YES aims to double this to 100,000 quality work experiences. The Presidential Youth Employment Intervention will build on all of these successes. To translate potential into opportunity we are very pleased today to officially launch SA Youth, the national pathway management network.
This initiative brings together eight government departments led by the Department of Employment and Labour, to form a network that will support young people to find pathways into the economy. We have forged strong partnerships with the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and other organisations to establish this network.
Through these partnerships, we have developed an online platform called SAYouth.mobi. I want to make a call to young South Africans to register on SAYouth.mobi. You can create a profile, view opportunities for learning and earning, and receive support through multiple channels.
SAYouth.mobi has been zero-rated by all mobile networks so that it can be accessed by young people from anywhere in the country at absolutely no cost. This will complement our existing efforts to create physical spaces where young people can go to access information, opportunities and support.
This already includes the NYDA centres and will include the 127 labour centres operated by the Department of Labour and Employment in every province. I want to say thank you to the many opportunity providers who have joined hands with us to make this initiative a reality.
SAYouth.mobi is already supporting over 1.4 million young people to access opportunities. These are young people like Joudon Rooi from Stanford in the Western Cape and over 132,000 other young people who found opportunities as education and school assistants through SA Youth.
They include Mthandazo Shabalala from Roodeport, who participated in the Youth Employment Service programme to access work experience and who was able to secure a job.
Then there is Segametsi Songwane from Hammanskraal who successfully started a small business with support from the National Youth Development Agency, and Nomzamo Xulu from KwaZulu-Natal, a young entrepreneur who received support to start and grow her own catering business.
In the next five years we hope to add another 3 million young people to this network. This ambition represents the scale and impact that we can achieve through effective publicprivate partnerships. Today we are also launching mPowa, a new platform in the SA Youth network developed by the mLab in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation.
It aims to provide young work-seekers and entrepreneurs with information about services and support that is available in their area. This platform builds on the success of the Youth Explorer, which has gathered and verified data on the services available to young people across the country. This year, with the launch of SA Youth, the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention will enter full implementation.
We are extending the Basic Education Employment Initiative to support the employment of young people throughout the country – every district and every ward will benefit. We are establishing a Presidential Youth Service that will create opportunities for young people to meaningfully contribute to their communities and develop critical skills to participate effectively in the economy.
We are currently piloting a new model of skills development where training is linked directly to employment in key growth sectors of our economy. In its first phase, this will create training and job opportunities for young people in digital skills and global business services.
This is in addition to the 137,000 learning opportunities that have been created through online courses in digital skills by the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa and the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies. The SETAs will be advertising opportunities to undertake learnerships and internships and to access bursaries for further education. This includes opportunities in the chemicals, health and welfare, transport and insurance sectors.
In the State of the Nation Address this year, I reported that the Department of Small Business Development and the National Youth Development Agency had achieved their target of supporting 1,000 youth-owned enterprises in 100 days, particularly in the township and rural economy.
This target has now been expanded to reach 15,000 young entrepreneurs, through a Challenge Fund supported by the department, the NYDA and the European Union. Through these programmes, we will create real opportunities for young people to grow their skills and earn an income.
SAYouth.mobi is the door through which young people can view and access these opportunities. The challenge of youth unemployment can seem insurmountable. However, we know what we need to do to address it. We know that by providing young people with opportunities for work experience, by supporting them to start and grow their own businesses, by fixing our skills development system and by creating opportunities for work that serves the common good, we can make inroads into this challenge.
Young men and women of South Africa,
Your country needs you.
We need you to rise, and demonstrate that a better life for all is indeed within our reach. I call on you to put your innovation, creativity and energy at the disposal of our nation. Just as the generation of 1976 did, I call on you to take responsibility for your future. This requires focus, patriotism, commitment and consistency. In a word, it requires hard work.
You are the generation born into democracy.
Our Constitution is your birthright.
I call on you to take a greater interest in the development and destiny of your country.
I call on you to be part of our national struggle to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the rapid rise in new infections, the country has now been placed on coronavirus alert level 3. We call on you to continue to comply with the public health regulations that are in place for everyone’s safety. Continue to wear your mask in public at all times, continue to sanitise or wash your hands regularly, and practice social distancing.
Avoid crowded spaces where you can.
Avoid parties and social gatherings.
Encourage your friends and family to do the same.
I call on you to be driving forces of change in your communities.
We need to work together to combat the social ills like gender-based violence, gangsterism and substance abuse that are ravaging our people. We must say no to violence against members of the LGBTQI+ community. Homophobia-fuelled violence has no place in our society. Say no to crime, and shun those who commit crime, even if they are your friends.
The construction of a better future for our country depends on our young people stepping forward, putting up their hands and saying: "Yes, I want to be part of change." If we work together, change is surely within our reach. Just as the youth of 1976 worked hard for the demise of apartheid, so too must the current generation of youth rise and be part of defeating poverty, inequality and under-development.
Armed with the tools of recovery, infused with the spirit of selflessness and service, our collective resolve strengthened, we can transform this country.
Wherever you may be, I wish you all a blessed Youth Day.