The upcoming World Festival of Youth and Students will be a “festival of ideas”, not a music concert, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) said on Tuesday following widespread criticism of the event.
“However opposition political parties aided by some media have continued to report as if the NYDA did not follow correct procedures in hosting the festival and casting doubt over the NYDA’s role in organising this world festival,” chairperson of the agency Andile Lungisa said in a statement.
He said his organisation was concerned about “misleading negative statements” against the festival.
The festival, he said was no “music festival or jamboree” as it had been portrayed by parties including the Freedom Front youth.
In its opposition to the festival the party called on young people to boycott the festival as it was a “waste of taxpayers’ money and is counter productive”.
The party further argued that “the high levels of poverty and unemployment in South Africa” made it clear that the NYDA’s priorities were wrong.
“Therefore us, as youth, need to take a stand against this wasting of money and incompetence of the executive committee of the NYDA.”
It further called for the sacking of the agency’s executive committee.
Lungisa however said the festival was part of promoting South African youth participation in the global youth development agenda.
“This is a festival of ideas that provides South African youth and the NYDA with increased international partnerships and networking opportunities with youth development practitioners and leaders from around the world,” said Lungisa.
The festival would raise critical issues in order to impact the shaping of policies of governments and the world.
Themes including the right to employment, economic issues, environment and development, free and universal access to education, science, culture and information would be discussed at the festival.
Democratic rights, freedoms and human rights and the struggle for peace, sovereignty and solidarity against imperialism were also some of the issues that the youth would discuss.
Over 30 000 young people, including 15 heads of states and international and local artists, and business leaders were expected at the festival.
About 15 000 local delegates from various provinces would be part of the festival.
Youth leaders from all 153 World Federation of Democratic Youth member countries — including Angola, Greece, India, Morocco, Namibia, Palestine, Senegal, Spain and South Africa — would attend.
“In the immediate future, there are also economic benefits for the country from hosting the event in terms of foreign spending in the country for the duration of the event,” said Lungisa.
Youth-owned businesses were being prioritised for the festival’s procurement opportunities.
“We are even more encouraged because the Interdepartmental Committee on Youth Affairs which sat in Pretoria today [Tuesday], pledged their support for the Festival as an important youth development forum,” Lungisa said.
DA Youth resigns
Last week the the Democratic Alliance Youth resigned from the agency, saying that the body had become an African National Congress “patronage scheme”.
They also criticised the amount of money that was being spent on the festival, while alo commenting on the amount of money the executive committee earned a month. — Sapa