The Congress of South African Trade Unions commemorates the historical June 16 Holiday by saluting South Africa’s youth that helped this country win the liberation struggle, but that is currently waging a fight against poverty, lack of education, unemployment, drug addiction, gangsterism and HIV/Aids.
Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the widespread youth protests, which began on June 16, 1976, and that represented the most decisive turning point in our struggle, as thousands of our young people decided that they had put up with racism and repression for long enough. The workers of this country will never forget the role that was played by young people in liberating this country as they fought side by side in the trenches to liberate this country.
It is saddening to see that 43 years after that heroic event young people face a crisis of youth unemployment. South Africa is the country with the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, with about 52,8% of young people unemployed. This is calamitous for the country because it means millions of young people will be dependent on the state for their well being and that of their families.
While many young people are benefitting from free education for the poor that has been introduced by our government, we still need to ensure that our education system produces necessary skills, in an era of the mechanisation, automation and digitisation. This will go a long way in addressing our alarming rate of youth unemployment.
It is also a travesty that HIV prevalence among young women in South Africa is nearly four times greater than that of men their age. Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 made up 37% of new infections in South Africa and this can be attributed to the scourge of intergenerational relationships between older men and younger women.
South African schools have become havens for drug gangs with devastating consequences for both teachers and learners. The violence in our schools and the scourge of drug addiction is afflicting many young people and threatening the future of this country. These are some of the battles that today’s young people need to overcome. Like the youth of 1976 and the Fees Must Fall generation, young people need to lead from the front in waging the fight against these challenges.
As we commemorate this special day, COSATU recommits itself to fighting side by side with the youth of this country to overcome and triumph over these struggles.
Issued by COSATU
v Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794