Politicians weigh in on Youth Day

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma's lack of empathy for the unemployed, land seizure without compensation, and unemployment bridging racial divides were among the themes of political party messages on Youth Day.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said on Saturday that the government had failed to respond to the crisis of youth unemployment and president Jacob Zuma was incapable of leadership or feeling the pain of others.

"[Youth unemployment] can lead to a life of crime, and a lack of care about one’s future well-being," she said in a speech prepared for delivery at a Youth Day function in Soweto.

"We have a president who simply seems unable to understand the lives others lead. Empathy for the others, we know, is the beginning of the sincerest kind of reconciliation."

The opposition leader saluted the bravery shown by those who fought against the apartheid government on June 16 1976.

The 1976 Soweto uprising was a series of high school student-led protests. Learners from various schools in Soweto protested in the streets against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium in schools. Around 20,000 students took part in the protest, and 176 people were killed.

The ANC Youth League said the country's youth should prepare themselves to take on the task of economic freedom.

"Ours like the 1976 detachment is a struggle for policy shift," said the league's spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy in a statement. "In the main [is] the demand for fast-tracking the return of the land to the indigenous people of this country without compensation and the nationalisation of the mines of South Africa."

She said it was the youth league's task to ensure it never fails the generations to come.

The league called on all young people to commemorate June 2012 "with the fighting spirit of the youth of 1976".

Freedom Front Plus Youth leader Wouter Wessels said the youth still faced enormous challenges that included unemployment, poverty and illiteracy.

He said his party was in favour of the much debated youth subsidy, which if implemented correctly and fairly, according to them, could actively address these challenges.

Wessels said that subsidies should not be subjected to affirmative action and black economic empowerment measures as unemployment reached across racial divides.

Wessels added that it was a pity that the ANC and DA were abusing this important issue as a "political football".

Exploitation

Earlier in the day disgruntled residents of Silvertown protested and burnt tyres outside the Wolfson stadium in Port Elizabeth ahead of a speech by Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane.

Police spokesperson Major Ernest Sigobe said the protesters complained that "they were not properly consulted about the event and complained about the lack of service delivery".

Police intervened and the situation was calm before Chabane gave his speech.

Chabane said in his speech that young's people's vulnerability was exploited by service delivery protests.

"We call on young people to resist this exploitation and focus on their education and uplifting their lives," he said.

"You should rather play a significant role in uplifting your communities than destroying it through the violent protests we have witnessed in recent times."

He told the crowd that "the national budget continues to support job creation, with a particular focus on unemployed youth."

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said the country's youth faced a multitude of challenges unlike the generation that led the 1976 uprisings.

"While the 1976 generation had a common enemy in the evil apartheid system, today's generation is faced with a totally different type of enemy," she said at a Youth Day rally in Soweto.

"Their challenges range from HIV and AIDS, drugs and substance abuse, moral decay, to hunger and joblessness."

Mokonyane said the nature of the challenges should galvanise the youth to work as a united force like the 1976 generation.

"For this to happen young people must participate in structures and organisations that have their interests at heart," she said.

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