South Africa: Government Biased to the Plight of Young People

President Cyril Ramaphosa says government has a bias towards the development of young people.

The President said this when he interacted with young people from different sectors and formations of the economy at the Imbizo Centre in Parliament on Wednesday.

The dialogue took place during Youth Month as the country continues to commemorate the June 16, 1976 uprisings. The Presidential Youth Dialogue, hosted by the National Youth Development Agency, also took place on the eve of the State of the Nation Address which the President will deliver at a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament at 7pm.

"We... have a government which has a bias for the development of young people. But you also have a government that is not only willing, but that is also prepared to listen to young people, to listen to their views, to listen to their inputs, to listen to their proposals, suggestions and everything else," he said.

The President was responding to questions and comments from youths representing various sectors of society - from disabled persons to philanthropists, from youth activists to artists, among many others.

He said young people had every right to call out government on its failures in a country that is faced with a serious challenge of youth unemployment.

"Where the government falls short, I should tell you now that young people should have the courage and the determination to raise issues with government where government falls short.

"For instance, you have raised, and correctly so, aspirations such as when the stimulus package was crafted, you too should have been involved. And I thought that you were right. We should have found a way in which you could also get involved," he said.

Ahead of the interaction with young people, NYDA chairperson Sifiso Mtsweni said the high levels of unemployment among young people needed a radical shift. He proposed that 35% of government's procurement budget should be set aside for young people.

"Let's remove the red tape, let's stop sending people from pillar to post," he said.

Chartered accountant and political analyst Khaya Sithole, who has dedicated a huge part of his life to fighting against the exploitation of young black accountants, said a correlation exists between youth entrepreneurship and incubation programmes.

He said that having gone through the Shanduka Black Umbrellas programme himself, he found the programme to be insightful and enriching on his journey towards meeting his career objectives.

He said a correlation existed between access to higher education and the creation of training opportunities and sustainable jobs.

SweepSouth co-founder Dr Aisha Pandor encouraged young people to look in the direction of tech start-ups.

She started in the e-cleaning business in 2014 after she quit her job, cashed in her pension and sold her house.

Five years later, SweepSouth has been growing in leaps and bounds. They now get 50 000 bookings monthly, and look set to make R100 million in turnover next year.

Pandor said while careers in the tech and digital fields was the future, if there is no support for people who are running tech start-ups the country will get left behind.

Media personality and philanthropist Masingita Paulette Masunga told guests at the event disability is not a disease. She said there is no person who is normal and that she herself is above normal.

Masunga, who has summited Kilimanjaro, said it is time disabilities are brought to the fore. "More opportunities should be made available for people living with disabilities," she said.

One Day leader Anisa Mazimpaka said she was not able to celebrate Youth Month while some of the young people who participated in #FeesMustFall protests are either still suspended, expelled or are lingering in jail. She made a plea for these students to receive a Presidential pardon.

LGBTQI activist, Camagwini Nongxongo said queer couples still face challenges at Home Affairs when processing their applications to get married and suggested hiring queer people at Home Affairs as a solution to this.

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