Second Take: NYDA thrives on greed

2012-03-24 08:54

Youth development in South Africa is an ­unfulfilled promise. It has become a cheap phrase that rolls off the tongues of politicians and ­incompetent state officials.

In fact, the only time journalists write about youth development is when they remind the ­nation that the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) is nothing more than a body of greedy incompetent political appointees ­beholden to the ANC Youth League.

Speaking after June 16 1976, the ANC president Oliver Tambo promised that when freedom comes, “We shall have a South Africa in which the young of our country shall have access to the best that mankind has produced, in which they shall be taught to love their people of all races, to defend the equality of the people, to honour creative labour, to uphold the oneness of mankind and to hate untruth, obscurantism, immorality and avarice.”

From the days of the National Youth Commission, government-sponsored youth structures have always lacked the moral authority and the imagination to excite the nation with a positive vision.

After announcing his budget last month, ­Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was criticised by the NYDA for reducing their budget from R405 million to R376 million.

“How can the agency tasked with dealing with the largest problem facing the largest sector of the population be given so little money?” its chief Andile Lungisa quibbled.

The agency was still reeling from the shock of the budget cut when it made it back into the pages of this very newspaper for its questionable handling of public money.

Oblivious of the public scorn levelled against it, and incapable of expressing shame, the NYDA bought expensive space in national papers inviting South Africans to make submissions to its draft Integrated Youth ­Development Strategy.

Every two years or so, since the promulgation of the National Youth Commission Act of 1997, the national youth bodies promise the nation an integrated plan.

They stage-manage unimaginative consultation processes, rehash the well-worn rhetoric and submit documents to the Cabinet, where the state president makes a few earnest statements about the youth being the future.

Young people and the adults who care for them do not celebrate when these documents are ­tabled. The ANC knows that the NYDA is ­ineffective and wasteful.

President Jacob Zuma and ­Performance Monitoring Minister Collins Chabane tolerate them and pray that they don’t create too much of a mess.

The NYDA, like its predecessors, is a sideshow created to pacify political youth. Gordhan and the authors of the National Development Plan know that these structures can’t help the state to ­engage young people in a creative dialogue.

This is truly sad because a democratic society needs a youth structure genuinely connected to young people and able to influence national ­development.

With its current design and ethos, the NYDA thinks and behaves like a badly-run non-governmental organisation complete with its own mini bureaucracy.

It takes away money and attention from real programmes and alienates the very ­people it’s supposed to serve with its ­obfiscation.

We are failing young South ­Africans with sham rituals that have cost us one ­generation, and another one seems destined for the same fate.

We must not forget that youth development is everybody’s business. It is the job of caring adults and young people themselves.

It is not a silly sideshow of a few politically-connected youth appointees who don’t know how to run a good youth development programme.

» Mokwena is first CEO of the National Youth Commission, an award-winning filmmaker and a cultural activist

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