Young people in South Africa are only allowed to navigate decisively and progressively in the spaces created by them, alone.
In the already existing structures, which have shaped our society in a myriad of forms, such as corporate, political and religious institutions, young people often have to have to stretch a certain mile to reach a certain positioning in that zone. This often leads to the compromising of other young people and the future of young people in South Africa.
Mary D Poole, writes: “Leadership should be more participative than directive, more enabling than performing.”
Young people are often placed within these spaces but the environments are not conducive for them to bring ultimate change to the state of society. They do not meaningfully participate and are often given instructions to pave agreements which alter the current and future context of those scopes.
Young people should not be put at the forefront to be seen only, but to be heard. Young people are represented in some spaces of leadership and influence but their voice is sealed and their volume is not deemed as enough to bear change.
Now, as young people of South Africa, who the future of South Africa, solely depends on: Have we forgotten our purpose? Are we in a battle of individualistic success or the success of our generation as a whole? Have we forgotten that we are a collective? We know what we need in order to have a progressive reality, why aren’t we decisive enough to be at the helm of this change we know we deserve? This is not to simply state rhetoric or allude to “kum ba yah” tactics but to unite in struggle. Our reflection should be the primary basis of our venture.
When young people organise and mobilise themselves in South Africa, we see a radical and a dynamic transition in particular areas. In 2013, our political context shifted when a political party, comprised of innumerable young people established. Young people have established non-profit and non-governmental organisations to shape their realities in their various communities, there is a multitude of youth organisations in the country. Even though these youth organisations are invited for consultations with youth related policy, they do not actively form part of the end-decision making process and implementation. Young people are merely treated as tools to follow procedure.
The country is riddled with youth unemployment and poverty, there is no legislation that marks the inclusion of young people to enhance renewal in the workplace and business. The National Development Plan, itself is not enough to prepare for the future if young people are not part and parcel of the process and amending the plan to ensure and secure a future, as determined by them.
The youth of South Africa is cemented between freedom and confinement.
Young people today are savouring the fruits of the hard-fought freedom by young people, which was characterised by extreme violence, however that freedom is not enough, as it is not necessarily conducive to the present state of young people in South Africa. Young people are confined in the spaces they have not created for themselves.
The reality and experiences of young people matter and should not be overlooked if a nation is concerned of its future however each generation is also responsible for the future it hopes for and has its unique struggles to fight to reach a desirable destination.
South Africa must open these doors of economic emancipation and of high-level strategic processes, which will inevitably affect our tomorrow.
We must as young adults take note of our struggles, we must be allowed to fulfil our mission and ensure that future generations do not endure the same plight.
Young people are assembling, moderately in their communities, young people are fighting to secure their future through community involvements, putting pressure on government to ensure key programmes to develop youth are put in place, confronting the notion of free education, key awareness campaigns are also in the spotlight yet young people are still trapped. Only a few are chosen to sit on these tables but they too, don’t have the ability to ensure transformation as they are outnumbered by older generations.
We need to move from the area of confinement we have been put in and continue to break those shackles and continue pursuing the matters that are central to our time. However this will only be a success if institutions of our society meet young people halfway and unban the notion of restriction and non-meaningful participation of many young people in their spaces.
The interests of young people are critical as they are the determining factor of the future of South Africa and the champions of those interest should be young people.
Covid-19 uncovered the critical role young people should be playing today in society our society and, indeed, young people should be a part and parcel of the post-Covid 19 solutions.
Our representation remains meaningless when it does not bring decisive action. The future is only certain when the present is clear, we need the youth to be unbanned, to set the tone for tomorrow.
Vusumzi Vusie Mba is a researcher for the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders and Andisiwe Kumbaca is a public servant and a community activist.