President Cyril Ramaphosa says young people should take the lead in South Africa’s economic recovery post-Covid-19.
He was addressing a virtual Youth Day discussion on Tuesday which focused on the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have young entrepreneurs and business owners who through their innovative ideas have been able to change their communities for the better and create new employment opportunities.
“We have outstanding young people, in the sciences and research, in sports, in entertainment and other fields who have represented our country on global platforms and stages,” Ramaphosa said.
This year marks 44 years since the Soweto uprising that claimed the lives of more than 200 people when thousands marched against the use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction.
The day, celebrated as Youth Day, ignited violent uprisings countrywide against the apartheid government.
“We pay tribute to the courage, the resilience and optimism of the youth of 1976, we also salute today’s generation who are determined, who are focused, who are resolute, but who also have great hopes about their own future and the future of our country,” Ramaphosa said.
He added young people’s potential was undeniable and from “time immemorial” had always been driven by changing the world.
“By changing the way things are done, by changing the way we live, by changing unjust systems, by bringing about justice and bringing about a new world … the moment that we now confront post-Covid-19 calls young people across the length and the breadth of our country to be part of that change and to be change agents.
“It also calls on young people to rebuild our economy and make a difference in the lives of our communities.
“It also calls on young people to be the young people who are going to underpin everything they do with the best of values, who are going to be rooted in principle in creating a South Africa that we can all be proud of,” Ramaphosa said.
With South Africa’s youth unemployment rate being one of the highest in the world, he added the government remained committed to investing in young people.
“As a government our commitment is irrevocable. We will continue to support our young people from cradle right through to young adulthood. We are providing education and training opportunities so that the youth get the skills that are needed by our economy.”
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said 16 June was a reminder our modern-day freedoms came at a high price.
“To each generation, we must make sure that these freedoms that we fought so hard for are sustained for generations to come,” he added.
Parliament’s presiding officers, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Province chairperson Amos Masondo, added their voices to Youth Day celebrations.
“Young people are the future of the country and their voices are critical to the developmental trajectory of our nation.
“They must be at the forefront of economic growth and development of the country. This includes being central and actively involved in the government’s service delivery initiatives and activities,” their joint statement read.