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FRIDAY, 02 JUNE 2017
Good afternoon
It is with great honour and privilege for me to address you today on a month that we honour those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom and democracy that each and every one of us enjoys today
June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, with a specific focus on 16 June, which is also known as Youth Day. Youth Month pays tribute to the school pupils who lost their lives during the 16 June 1976 uprising in Soweto.
It’s been 41years since young people from this very area of Soweto on 16 June 1976, took a stand against an oppressive regime demanding their voice be heard. Between 3000 and 10 000 students mobilized themselves and marched peacefully to demonstrate and protest against the government’s directive to use Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in their schools. The march was meant to culminate at a rally in Orlando Stadium.
On their way to the Stadium, they were met by heavily armed police who fired teargas and later live ammunition on demonstrating students. This resulted in a widespread revolt that turned into an uprising against the Apartheid Government. The events of that day sparked a national outcry and uprisings throughout the country. Many young people lost their lives mercilessly.
While Soweto was the fulcrum and zero ground of the uprising, it spread across the country and carried on until the following year. These young people were fierce and fearless. What seemed like a simple action from their part turned out to be a history making moment that would echo through the history of South Africa.  It catapulted the struggle for the freedom of South Africa throughout the world. We salute their courage and zeal which bore the fruit of the freedom that we enjoy today.
Today we are here to launch Youth Month in 2017 under the theme “The Year of OR Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment”. This theme seeks to mainstream the youth development agenda and participation of young people in the broader economy. There is now a groundswell acknowledgment that political freedom on its own is not enough, our people, particularly out youth who make the majority of our population are hungry for economic emancipation.
The urgency of the participation of youth at the top end of our economy has been emphasised by the Labour Force Survey recently released by the Statistician- General yesterday.  The survey results paint a disturbing picture which shows that we are regressing rather than improving. This points to one direction and one direction only.  The direction is that the youth should not only be job seekers but also be the creators of employment in their own right so that they can also be able to employ other youth, particularly in the new and innovative economic sectors that speak to the special talents and entrepreneurship of their peer.
Government’s Commitment to Youth Development
As the South African government, our commitment to youth development is influenced by our democratic goals, which are based on the principles of social and economic justice, human rights, empowerment, participation and active citizenship that are enshrined in the South African constitution. The National Youth Policy 2020 gives further expression to these principles and is intended to lay a firm foundation for youth, who are and will continue to shape future of this country. Youth are therefore at the core of South Africa’s development agenda.
Issues Facing Young People
We are very much cognisant of the many challenges facing the youth today such as high unemployment rates, alcohol and substance and HIV/Aid.
The current scourge that we are seeing, which affects mostly our young people women, that of being raped and killed is completely unacceptable. Our hearts cry out to the families who have lost their lives through such senseless killings in the recent past. It cannot be that our women and children are not able to enjoy the freedom and liberation that was hard worn. Real freedom will be achieved when our women can be free to go anywhere anytime without fear of being attacked, raped and/or killed.
I appeal to all men in our country to make it their duty to protect women. We need to espouse Ubuntu and value human life, which is what makes us different as human being. We are because of others, we need every South African for us to reach our goal of making the goals of NDP2030 a reality in our lives.
Youth Economic Participation
The economic participation of youth in the economy is very low and this is a challenge that has been vexing our government for the past 23 years. The low economic participation of young people expresses itself in high levels of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy among youth and lack of exposure to sustainable livelihoods, which in turn exposes young people to social ills. The low levels of economic participation of young people can be attributed in part to the legacy of apartheid.
Social ills manifest themselves in many guises, such as teenage pregnancy and drug abuse. Our best intentions have not yet succeeded and we need to enhance efforts to engage youth. A youth unengaged is youth prone to find a devastating pastime. As the phrase goes, the devil makes use of idle.  To reverse the idleness, all sectors of society have to mainstream all their activities towards finding employment and occupation of youth. In Government, it should be an activity across all Government Departments, at all spheres of Government.
The youth constitute approximately 40% (14 to 35 years) of the South African population, but the number of young people involved in entrepreneurial activity remains extremely low at 6% of the total youth population. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (Dti), South Africa’s Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) index, which currently stands at 8,9% youth, contributes a mere 10%, representing 0,9% of the total TEA index. Therefore, there is no doubt that accelerating entrepreneurship among young people will have a positive impact not only on the social plane of bringing equity in the economy, but also by raising the levels of the overall economic indicators of South Africa.
Government has recognised the problem of poor economic participation of young people and has put in place numerous policy interventions geared towards bringing youth into the mainstream of the economy to enhance social inclusion and cohesion such as:
·         Introducing through the National Treasury and Department of Labour youth unemployment policy options for South Africa with the aim of incentivising entities to employ young people,
·         The Department of Economic Development (EDD) has introduced a short–to-medium term multi-pronged strategy that aims to propose interventions that provide young people with income and opportunities, and encourages community service and engagements around targeted programmes to enable entry into the economic mainstream.
·         The NYDA has been implementing interventions geared towards the economic participation of young people, namely youth work, national youth services, and education and skills relevant to economic empowerment such as the NYDA Grant Fund, JOBS Database, Mentorship Programmes, Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund and Career Guidance.
·         In 2016, National Treasury introduced a 30% procurement set-aside for youth and women owned enterprises.
As government, we believe that enhancing youth economic participation through entrepreneurship, job opportunities and other relevant integrated interventions cannot be achieved by government efforts alone, but is a shared responsibility that calls for a partnership between government, the private sector and broader civil society.
We therefore call on all these sectors to make a difference in the young people of this country, invest in our future by investing in our youth.  We urge that all these sectors should engage youth in all their endeavours, so that youth can shape and mould the future direction of their future employment as drivers rather than receivers.
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