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Unemployment is not a new problem in South Africa and the continuation of this problem raises suspicion around whether the government has a plan to deal with this problem which has been becoming worse year after year, writes Mcebo Dlamini
The beginning of the year is always characterised by extreme anxiety for almost everyone.
Matriculants are restless, trying to find academic institutions to further their studies.
People are preparing to go back to work and new graduates are seeking employment.
But what does this stressful time of the year mean for those who are unemployed?
What does it mean for those who are excluded structurally to contribute to the economic machinery of South Africa either as labour or as owners?
Does it mean a continuation of a life of dishonor or are there any prospects for them to escape the ensnaring web of unemployment that keeps them living a life of poverty?
The painful reality is that unemployed people are often ignored and only remembered when elections are on the horizon.
The local government elections are near and political parties will all claim to be committed to the fight against unemployment.
Almost all the manifestos will have the fight against unemployment as a priority.
But once the elections are over, life continues as normal, young people continue to languish in the township because there are no employment opportunities.
The statistics are there.
In an article recently, Zama Mthunzi showed us staggering amounts reflecting the high unemployment rates that affect young black people in South Africa.
The talk of fighting unemployment has just become rhetoric to lure and deceive hungry and unsuspecting voters.
Unemployment is not a new problem in South Africa and the continuation of this problem raises suspicion around whether the government has a plan to deal with this problem which has been becoming worse year after year.
The problem of unemployment is serious because it is one that is layered.
It does not only contribute to the problem of poverty but it is also directly linked to crime, violence and xenophobia which has been a big problem in our country.
Failure to deal with this problem means that all the other ills that we face as a country continue to persist.
Just recently Telkom retrenched over 3 000 people (and according to reports, intends cutting 3 000 more jobs in May) and these retrenchments have been happening all around South Africa.
This complicates the problem even further because now we do not only have a problem of skilled people who are unemployed but also of people who are without skills.
These people easily fall into the category of unemployable citizens, close to what Karl Marx was speaking of when he spoke of the lumpenproletariat.
This problem does not seem to be one that will abate especially in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which, by predictions, might mean even more and more job losses.
The trade unions through their efforts have failed dismally to also provide solutions to questions of unemployment. What we have been seeing is the change in their language and them moving away from leftist politics.
We saw this when Cosatu gestured towards the support of privatization, knowing very well that privatization historically has meant job losses.
It must be mentioned that the problem of unemployment and unemployabilty can only be dealt with by the government.
Without intervention and decisive policy change by the government there is no way that this problem can be curbed.
What then could be the reason behind the reluctance of the government to solve this question?
Or are we incapable of dealing with this problem as a country?
I doubt that we are incapable, South Africa harbors rich minerals and is among the leading countries when it comes to agriculture.
The problem is that South Africa's riches are privately owned and all the important sectors of the community are making money for a select few while the majority continues to exist in squalor.
The future of the youth cannot only be one that is discussed in conferences and used as a way to mobilise people in rallies.
The question of unemployment and unemployablity is a reality that young people have to deal with each and every day.
Young people must organise themselves and make sure their concerns are heard.
This will happen through a committed vanguard of young people.
What this means is that young people cannot continue to wait for other people to intervene and assist them.
Throughout history young people have been able to organise themselves and be heard.
It cannot be that they discuss their issues in shebeens and on street corners when they have the power to reclaim what is rightfully theirs: the right to live decent lives, their dignity.
- Dlamini is a former chairperson of the Wits SRC. He writes in his personal capacity.
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