Several prominent speakers failed to show up on Tuesday at the controversial World Youth Festival in Pretoria, with organisers saying none of them had confirmed their attendance.
According to a programme distributed at the start of the event on Monday, African National Congress (ANC) veteran Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Arts and Culture Minister Fikile Mbalula, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu were due to address thousands of young people from over 100 countries at various sessions on Wednesday.
However, the National Youth Development Agency’s (NYDA) Siyabonga Magadla said none of the speakers had confirmed their attendance and would not be present.
He however indicated the sessions, which included “The right to housing”, “The struggle for peace, sovereignty and solidarity against imperialism”, “Public, free and universal access to education, science, culture and information”, would continue as planned without the politicians.
At lunch youth from different countries waited in long queues to get food parcels in white tents pitched at the Pretoria Show Grounds. Some sat on benches or the grass enjoying their meals. They were told over the PA system that sessions would continue at “2pm sharp”.
Foreign journalists packed the humid media room, some writing stories while others checked email via the free internet connection. Officials had been trying to fix the electricity supply to the centre.
The 17th World Festival of Youth and Students kicked off at Pretoria’s Lucas Moripe Stadium on Monday amid much fanfare, loud music and flag waving. Artists performed, the military paraded and President Jacob Zuma delivered the opening address. ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema made an appearance, to the delight of delegates.
The festival, held under the theme Let’s Defeat Imperialism, was being hosted by the NYDA in partnership with the World Federation of Democratic Youth. It was scheduled to end on December 21.
A total of R69-million had been budgeted for the event. Of this amount R40-million had come from the National Lotteries Board. — Sapa