All but an easy ride for post-apartheid youths

2015-06-24 06:00
Lehlohonolo Nyetanyane, Social activist


Lehlohonolo Nyetanyane, Social activist Foto:

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16 JUNE 1976 was a watershed political chapter in the history of apartheid South Africa.

Student protests on Wednesday morning led by Tsietsi Mashinini, Murphy Morobe, Seth Mazibuko, Ronnie Mathabathe and others will indelibly be etched into South Africa’s library of youth heroism.

Students marched from the Morris Isaacson High School in Naledi after Andries Treurnicht had decreed a 50/50 Afrikaans and English medium of instruction for Bantu learners. They chanted: “If we must do Afrikaans, Vorster must do Zulu.”

After 39 years, the likes of Mbuyisa Makhubu and Sam Nzima, a photojournalist who took the famous Hector Peterson photo, are still celebrated.

There is, however, a growing debate on how this epoch-making day should be commemorated apart from being a public holiday.

The razzmatazz that characteri-ses modern reminiscence of the day on which an estimated 176 people were killed, among whom a social-welfare activist Dr Melville Edelstein, is a cause for concern for the 1976 survivors.

Though the events of 16 June 1976 cannot be downplayed, I nevertheless hold a different view to the one held by 1976 stone throwers.

I think the post-’94 youth should not be trapped in the evocative melancholy of a 1976 winter’s day. By no means should today’s youth live vicariously in the shadow of the class of ’76. Youth Day celebrations must not be anachronistic – this day should be reflective of current youth victories and challenges alike.

Post-’94 youth have their own narrative to tell and own peculiar struggle to overcome.

The socio-political script has changed and so has the cast members. As much as the class of ’76 celebrated Hector Peterson, the current brigade should celebrate Nkosi Johnson with the same oomph.

Today’s high school learners have a right to decide their own medium of instruction and how their schools should be run by being elected into School Gover-ning Bodies (SGB), by their peers.

They have the freedom to decide the political trajectory of the country through the power of the ballot – something the class of ’76 never had. There are many more youth entrepreneurs today than there were in 1976; therefore we dare not caricature today’s youth as a “lost generation”. Albeit #RhodesMustFall was marshalled un-procedurally, it was indicative that the current young brigade is not all about bling and booze. They must bask in their own glory and be given latitude to celebrate their generational triumphs.

As I have already indicated, the post-’94 brigade has its own multi-dimensional struggle to overcome. Top of the list in the modern struggle are HIV/Aids, unemployment, teenage pregnancy, fly-by-night FET colleges, child-headed families, Nyaope, et cetera.

The current crop is not on an epic African safari. Youth unemployment is sitting at 36,2% today – a variable unheard of in 1976. An estimated 182 000 teenage girls fall pregnant annually and 36% of maternal deaths comprise teenage mothers. This is a demon facing the post-’94 youth.

They must also work laboriously to abort kasi-style youth militancy often witnessed during service delivery protests and the recent xenophobic attacks. South Africa has thousands of young offenders held in 13 youth correctional centres, while HIV prevalence in young women aged 20-24 is 17,4%.

Placing these two classes on the same measuring scale is therefore unfortunate – they do not share the same battle lines. It is not an easy ride for the post-1994 youth – aluta continua.

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