Sisulu moots national service for ‘glut of unskilled youth’

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu proposed a Bill for National Service in Parliament recently and said she is “convinced there could not be another solution to the huge glut of unemployed, disempowered and unskilled youth”.

Sisulu insisted the service would not be compulsory but said there were still concerns about militarising the youth.

Of the national service, the ministry of defence said: “It is an expensive exercise and there are many operational costs … It will be a two-year tertiary programme” and would be recognised as such upon completion of the course.

Sisulu spoke at length about the national-building properties of national service and also addressed any concerns about the hazards of militarising the youth. She argued that a greater danger was posed by “people who have no purpose” or discipline. She also pointed to the frequent service delivery protests and the excessive anger shown by the youth involved in the protests.

However, chairperson for Gun Free South Africa, Alan Storey, asked: “Why does it have to be provided through the military?”

‘Rape and war go hand in hand’
Storey suggested that the money should rather be invested in building infrastructure not connected with the military, saying “youth who leave school could rather be registered with community service”, centres where skills and discipline could be learnt.

By militarising the youth, said Storey, “we are perpetuating the very things we are trying to get rid of and planting seeds that will give birth to weeds”.

“From a feminist perspective,” said Storey, “the military is notoriously sexist … rape and war go hand in hand.”

Defence Ministry spokesperson Ndivhuwo Wa Ha Mabaya told the M&G that “the difference between this and the apartheid government’s national service is that it is not designed to produce soldiers, it is designed to produce leaders”.

ANC Youth League spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy said: “It’s a great consideration by the department of defence and a great opportunity for young people to redirect their energy and a way for them to contribute to broader society. It is an opportunity for the expansion of skills.”

National Youth Development Agency’s (NYDA) CEO, Steven Ngubeni said: “We agree totally. We embrace it in the context that it is not conscription.”

The NYDA resulted from a merger of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the National Youth Commission in 2009.

“It must be understood that the NYS [National Youth Service] is one of the objectives [of the NYDA] … according to the legislation which is in place.”

‘You can get discipline in other places’
Ngubeni believed the army is “the best option to instill a basic level of discipline” and also said it afforded opportunities for training in “journalism, physical science and even to learn about medicine”.

Ikamvayouth is a non-profit youth empowerment organisation. Board member Colin Beck said “our problems are service orientated … I don’t think running through an obstacle course with a rifle is going to do anything to help.”

“You can get discipline in other places,” he said.

But the DA expressed doubts about funding for a national service. “How will an increasingly under-funded defence force afford a voluntary national service system?” asked David Maynier, the DA shadow minister of defence and military veterans.

“The DA knows very well that the funds are allocated in line with the programme,” Mabaya told the M&G

He did not wish to “thumb suck” the figures, but said by way of example that presently the defence force took 5 000 young people into its programme (out of 62 000 applicants) every year. This comes at an annual cost of R150-million.

“Let us first look at the funds allocated and the resources needed and then decide the numbers,” he said.

Mabaya said “we are asking for national debate”, over the matter and said that “after the World Cup we will be starting to engage more vigorously”.

As part of the debate, the ministry of defence planned “communication road shows” to discuss what the public want to see from a national service. “We will also meet with youth formations, across all party lines,” said Mabaya.

Mabaya said the ministry of defence “are very determined about this and we think it is something South Africa must embrace”.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

As opposition mounts, Zimbabwe’s president lashes out

Emmerson Mnangagwa has accused ‘dark forces’ of destabilising the country

Big retailers need to step up to the plate

To stave off a multi-generational malnutrition crisis, the food industry must work with government to provide highly nutritious foods at cost during the pandemic

Crime stats mark a bitter start to Women’s Month

We must celebrate women’s achievements this month while agitating for structural change, argues Luke Waltham

Sisulu axes another water board

Umgeni Water’s board in KwaZulu-Natal was appointed irregularly by her predecessor, the water and sanitation minister claims

South Africa prioritises fossil fuels over clean energy in post-Covid-19 recovery packages

The country is among the G20 countries who have invested in electricity produced from coal, oil and gas at the cost of addressing climate change

Challenges and opportunities for telemedicine in Africa

Telemedicine in Africa is currently limited by the availability of basic infrastructure, but, considering the lack of doctors in rural areas, it is a vital component in addressing the continent’s healthcare needs

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday