The month of June remains a monument that too few youths take pride in. It has moved from a point of deep reflection on the role of young people, to another public spectacle on 16 June and a public holiday to enjoy some festivities.
In the words of Oliver Tambo: “The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.” Tambo, as the father of our democracy, never rested or relented, giving the best years of his life for the freedom of not only black people, but also to set white people free from themselves.
Mandela’s legacy of engagement
Former president Nelson Mandela also left a rich legacy for all to learn from and further develop. This legacy encompasses his leadership ability to engage and persuade others in a particular direction. Without Mandela’s leadership ability to steer South Africa as de facto president after the killing of Chris Hani, our country would have slipped into a civil war. In the quest for the youth voice to be strengthened in our country, we must elevate the need for deep and meaningful engagement. Youth must organise themselves better to engage, persuade and convince those who hold the levers of power. The black lobby groups must bridge this gap of engagement and young people must insist, the way Mandela did, for the benefit of youth issues to be prioritised in the country.
Biko’s legacy of self-actualisation
The black consciousness leader Steve Biko left a legacy of self-actualisation. The focus of this legacy is to break the mental chains that exist among black people, because of subjugation. Young people today may have opportunities to advance themselves in certain areas but suffer from mental blockages. The cry of ubuntu within the black community cannot be heard by people who do not recognise their own self-worth and talent. With rising youth unemployment, currently sitting at 74.7%, young people will have this mental barrier to overcome. These unacceptable levels of unemployment could create youth apathy that does not value the mental power that must be harnessed. Youth Month, however, has the potential to lift this issue of developing the mental infrastructure that will break those barriers. The youth should lobby for programmes that will deal directly with the mindset of young people and develop their mental agility to overcome the chains brought about by lack of opportunities and stagnating economic prospects.
This therefore calls for an intellectual revolution, led by young people who value their mental health and mental abilities to drive youth-related initiatives. The black lobby groups have a countrywide reach to birth this approach that will prepare young minds to deal with mental health-related issues that affect their daily lives. Biko continues to challenge black people to change their mindsets and embrace their brilliance and talent that they must display not only in the country, but to the world.
Maxeke’s legacy of true education
Charlotte Maxeke, known as the “mother of black freedom” in South Africa, chartered the way of how education should be viewed by youth. She is the first known black woman in South Africa to obtain her degree in 1901, from Ohio in the United States. This speaks to her drive as a person, who suffered the double obstacle of being black and a woman. Her legacy challenges the youth to not view education as an end, but as a journey towards continuous learning to equip oneself to change the fortunes of the people. Maxeke’s legacy affords us the opportunity to tie critical skills to the needs of the community and the economy. Young people therefore must lead engagements on the skills that our community and society will need post Covid-19, and the kind of economic system that will uplift the country from its current doldrums. Human capital development must take centre stage and the youth must be central to these engagements.
As we reflect again on another youth month, let us take hold of these legacies and apply them to the engagements youth must have, especially in organisations that have national reach and influence. The youth must learn to sacrifice, and not wait for the next person to take responsibility for the progress that our country needs. An intellectual revolution beckons, a knowledge-based struggle rooted in true education and genuine courage, for the benefit of young people. Youth must be fully entrenched in policy and legislative discourses. There is no excuse for not knowing the policy and legislative paradigms that are meant to benefit us. The youth are a time bomb, if not harnessed soon, our country might go through a youth depression period, where apathy will become the order of the day.