Second Take: It is time for young people to take charge

2012-06-16 09:56

South Africa – in business and ­politics – has adopted a “wait your turn” policy; young people (often ­capable) are told that they are not good enough to lead today and that they must wait for tomorrow.

Our leaders happily point out that South Africa is rich with promise thanks to its young population. We therefore need to ask what good is that promise and potential if it is not groomed.

The drivers of the economy in ­Sandton and the decision-makers in Pretoria are failing to invest in the country’s greatest asset, the youth.

South Africa’s companies are sitting on a cash pile of R520 billion, which could be used to kickstart businesses owned by young people; politicians in the ruling party are stalling on the youth wage subsidy, which could give young job seekers a lifeline. It is difficult as young people to think that the older generation is interested in investing its resources in young people.

It is time for young people to do it on their own. We need to take charge of an unpleasant situation somehow.

The class of 1976 expressed the need for young people to oppose poor education and the brutal system of apartheid.

The youth of 1976 understood the need to act.

Young people are now without a genuine group of leaders. We do of course have the populists who use the vulnerability of young people for their own political gain.

When will the young Steve Biko of our generation announce himself? When will the young Nelson Mandela of our generation set the agenda?

When will a young Charlotte Maxeke take her place? Young South Africa is desperately in need of leadership.

At the same time, we must ask where are the mentors who will ensure that young people make the most of their talents. Where are the Govan Mbekis, the Albertina Sisulus and the Oliver Tambos?

The youth are without ­leaders and mentors. This highlights the problems in our society, where old and young are not working together for the best possible outcome.

Democracy has, to an extent, fostered complacency and an acceptance of the status quo, among both old and young.

During youth month, as we reflect on the role and destiny of young ­people, my hope is that South Africa’s young leaders step out of the shadows and take their places, before it is too late, and that the older generation gives us guidance. It is our time to shine.

– Mabine Seabe is a student and director of Youth Lab 

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