The much-maligned World Youth Festival, which ended on Tuesday, was a success, according to the chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).
“It has been a successful festival, in fact a resounding success, and we are very happy about that,” Andile Lungisa said in a statement.
“Youth from more than 140 countries gathered and discussed real issues that affect young people around the world today.”
The festival, held under the theme “Let’s defeat imperialism for a world of peace, solidarity and social transformation”, opened at the Tshwane Events Centre on December 13 with a claimed 15 000 delegates.
Opposition political parties criticised its R69-million budget.
Several scheduled high-profile speakers, including government ministers, never arrived.
Delegates reportedly played soccer and kissing games while waiting for sessions to begin.
Some catering companies were said to have refused to serve delegates meals because organisers refused to pay invoices amounting to millions of rands.
Nothing but praise
Lungisa, however, had nothing but praise for the festival’s organisers.
“We had a busy programme. There were 19 sessions held every day and they came in the form of seminars, workshops and conferences,” he said. “These gatherings were attended and addressed by youth leaders from all the countries represented at the festival.”
He said the festival had created a platform for young people to network and to exchange ideas on a variety of pressing issues such as unemployment, education, racism, migration and xenophobia.
“Let me hasten to say that the festival was time well spent as the issues raised here were a reflection of the challenges of those who were not able to make it to the festival and the constituencies they represent.” — Sapa