Youth will force change on their terms if leaders dither

Wits SRC president Nompendulo Mkatshwa student fee protest Oct 2015. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Wits SRC president Nompendulo Mkatshwa student fee protest Oct 2015. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

This year has seen the awakening of young people as they challenge the structures and spaces that they feel are oppressive. Campaigns such as #RhodesMustFall, #TransformWits, #OpenStellenbosch and the recent nationwide protests over fee increases show the power young people have when they come together.

There is an underlying anger that has taken hold of them and the sentiment is clear. They are frustrated with the reality in which they live and have made a conscious decision that this is not what they want for their future. Recent events and developments have shown them taking the initiative and driving the change that they desire.

Young people around South Africa are waking up to the fact that the principles behind the idea for a nonracial, equal and economically inclusive South Africa were ill-conceived. The idea that the solution to centuries of oppression and subjugation would be the integration of a formerly disenfranchised majority into a system of exploitation was doomed to failure as soon as the thought was conceived.

The Codesa negotiations and the concessions made are increasingly seen as a failure of black South African leaders to leverage the efforts of the struggle and their position of ascendency to commit to a more socially and economically equal reality: the one promised by the Freedom Charter.

Young people are beginning to start looking within themselves to create the country and spaces that they want. The time to have serious discussions on the future of South Africa and on how to address past injustices is now, going beyond rhetoric to produce tangible and much faster changes.

Young people are beginning to make it clear that the status quo of stark inequality cannot be maintained and is unacceptable. South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world, and the anger of all those living in poverty surely cannot continue without a revolt.

South Africa is sitting on a ticking time bomb and the country’s inability to resolve these inequalities speedily will surely result in chaos.

This is made worse when Oxfam studies show that the two richest South Africans have the same wealth as the bottom half of the population.

Creating a more equal and just society will mean taking strong, intelligent but possibly controversial decisions.

If the country’s current leadership does not take proactive steps to redress the injustices of the past, young people will force that change to take place on their terms.

In solidarity with youth movements and organisations around the country, the Young Lab Association calls on all of South Africa’s young people to use the momentum that has been built up to take part in what we believe will be a historic and reality-changing protest.

We call on all young people, regardless of political affiliation or ideological inclination, to unite on June 16 2016 to hand over a youth manifesto to government leaders at the Union Buildings.

This event will be not only about making demands, but about realising the responsibility that young people have to our nation and to nation-building. It will also signal the point at which young people took the baton from our brave elders and continued the struggle for true equality.

The voice of the youth needs to go beyond that of students and should begin to encompass all young people. The youth manifesto will give our young people a clear vision of the type of country they want to live in and should truly address the inequalities of the past.

It will give us an opportunity to unify behind clear goals and gain a true understanding of what our future struggle will be about. The manifesto will contain the guiding principles that all young people should strive to abide by, and will be a great step to the equal society we truly desire.

Kanelo Pitso is a director of the Young Lab Association



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