STATEMENT: We urge the GNU to implement policies that address the root causes of youth unemployment and economic inequality!

with No Comments

Youth Day, celebrated annually on June 16, marks the brave actions of young people during the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Their courage and sacrifices significantly contributed to the dismantling of apartheid and the establishment of a democratic South Africa. However, as we reflect on the past thirty years, it becomes painfully clear that the dreams and aspirations of those young heroes remain unfulfilled for many of our citizens. The systemic inequalities and pervasive challenges that continue to plague our nation compel us to take a stand.

The 1976 Soweto Uprising was a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Thousands of Black students, driven by a profound sense of injustice, took to the streets to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in their schools. Their resistance was met with brutal repression, resulting in the deaths of many young people. The uprising drew international attention to the atrocities of the apartheid regime and galvanized global opposition to South Africa’s racist policies.

Youth Day was established to honour these young martyrs and to celebrate the resilience and spirit of our youth. It is a day meant to inspire hope and progress. However, in the current context, celebrating Youth Day feels deceptive when so many of our young people remain trapped in cycles of poverty, unemployment, and systemic exclusion.

Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has made significant strides in building a democratic society. Our constitution enshrines the rights and freedoms of all citizens, and we have established institutions aimed at promoting justice and equality. Yet, despite these advances, deep-seated issues persist. 

While politicians believe the newly formed Government of National Unity will move this divided nation forward, the reality for many South Africans, especially the youth, remains bleak. The challenges they face are not new, but their persistence raises serious questions about the effectiveness of our policies and the sincerity of our commitment to true equality and freedom. 

Youth unemployment remains one of the most pressing issues. According to recent statistics, over 45% of young South Africans are unemployed. This is not just a statistic; it represents millions of young lives stunted by lack of opportunity, poverty, and hopelessness. Most young people are excluded from enjoying the fruits of our democracy.  

For many young South Africans, economic exclusion is a daily reality. The lack of job opportunities, coupled with inadequate support for entrepreneurship and small businesses, leaves them with limited options. This economic exclusion fuels poverty and social instability. 

The high levels of crime and substance abuse in marginalised communities are symptoms of broader social issues. These problems are often met with punitive measures rather than supportive interventions, further marginalising young people who need help the most. 

Mental health issues among the youth are on the rise, exacerbated by economic hardship, social exclusion, and the pressures of an uncertain future. Yet, mental health services remain underfunded and inaccessible to many, leaving a critical gap in support. 

The disparities in educational quality are glaring. Students in under-resourced schools are often left without the tools they need to succeed, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage that is difficult to break. This is not just an educational issue; it is a profound social injustice.

We call on young people to unite and demand the government of national unity to: 

  • Invest in job-creating alternatives: Addressing youth unemployment must be a top priority. This requires comprehensive economic policies that stimulate job creation, support small businesses, and provide training and skills development for young people. Public-private partnerships can play a crucial role in this effort. The government must develop a low-carbon reindustrialization programme that can create millions of jobs aimed at addressing climate change. 
  • Implement a Basic Income Grant: We call on the government to urgently introduce a decent basic income grant of at least R1750 per month, which should have been introduced long ago as a safety net for the poor who are grappling with the unemployment crisis.  This will not only improve peoples’ standard of living and lift people from starvation but it can help to stimulate the local economy and improve productivity – which is where jobs are created. When more people have more money to spend, it can drive demand for goods and services and ultimately contribute to economic growth.
  • End to budget cuts that hurt the Xcluded: Cutting the budget in a time of economic stagnation will destroy the very tools and resources we need to jump-start the economy.  This requires a huge mobilization of state resources that will pump life back into our economy. 
  • Tax the rich!: Millions of South Africans go to bed hungry each week, while the rich siphon billions of rands to tax safe havens through profit shifting and wage evasion. Research has shown that halting profit shifting by transnational corporations would help to raise more than R100 billion in revenue each year.  We also know that a small net wealth tax on the top 1% can raise more than R140 billion annually. This is not even mentioning the billions lost to corruption each year.  Hence, we call on the government to stop the looting and to tax the rich who have become even richer during the COVID-19 pandemic to address the deep inequalities and hunger in our country. 

As we commemorate Youth Day and reflect on 30 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa, we must remember that the youth are the backbone of our nation, and their empowerment is crucial for our continued progress. CryX remains committed to advocating for the rights and well-being of young people. Together, we can build a future where every young South African has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

Issued by the Cry of the Xcluded 

For media enquiries, contact: 

  • Motsi Khokhoma on 073 490 7623

The Cry of the Xcluded was launched by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the Assembly of the Unemployed (AoU) on 12 February 2020 to unite the working class – employed and unemployed – in the struggle for jobs, services, and dignity.