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16 Jun 2003 12:55
South Africa’s youth were facing the “triple threat” of joblessness, HIV/Aids, and crime, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said at a Youth Day rally at Mokopane in Limpopo on Monday.
Leon added the three scourges affected all South Africans but “they affect young people most of all”.
He told his audience the unemployment rate among young South Africans was roughly double the national average.
“Today official unemployment is 31% and some estimates of youth unemployment go as high as 70%.”
Young people, and young women in particular, had higher HIV infection rates than any other sections of the population.
“Half of all infected people get HIV before they are 25 and die before they are 35,” the DA leader said.
Most of the nation’s prisoners were under the age of 23, and young people were most likely to fall victim to crime.
“The truth is that when students marched through the streets of Soweto 27 years ago today, even the ANC (African National Congress) was taken by surprise. The ANC leaders in exile and in prison didn’t know what to do about the new protests.
The youth led the way, and the elders followed.”
“President (Thabo) Mbeki said on Friday that today’s youth are consumed by ‘selfishness’ and ‘the pursuit of personal material wealth as the most important objective in life’.
“The president’s own conduct has been questioned in connection with arms deals and oil scandals that have shovelled millions of rand in cash to political cronies.
“But I must tell you that you do have a choice. You can sit there and listen to President Mbeki tell you fairy tales about how much the government is doing for young people. You can let the ANC government continue to ignore you.
“Or you can stand up and say something. You can stand up and tell the ANC government that you are tired of boring speeches, tired of broken promises, and tired of being told you’re no good.
“You can fight for real action against the “triple threat” of joblessness, HIV/Aids, and crime. You can fight for the rights of young people to receive opportunity vouchers, to claim Basic Income Grants, and to be protected by a police service that works properly.
“We need you to lead us into the next ten years of democracy in South Africa. Because only you can beat the ‘triple threat.’ Only you can show us the way,” Leon said. - Sapa
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