Ed. Note: We received this press release from the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League today. Abahlali baseMjondolo is the South African Shack Dwellers Movement, which we reported on previously.
15 September 2011: Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League Press Statement
What is the Future for the Youth of South Africa?
The issues that are facing the youth are being ignored for eleven months of the year and only recognised on the youth month. But even on the youth month when the issues of the youth are being recognised there is a lack of seriousness about dealing with the crisis facing the current generation. There is a lot of talk and big speeches in stadiums and on TV but very little action.
The media are often confused. They often think that the tenderpreneurs really represent the youth when in fact they only represent themselves and their super-rich friends in business and politics. They are exploiting the crisis of the youth to advance their own interests.
Young people are supposed to have a clear path to adulthood. But here in South Africa millions of us are stuck. We cannot continue with education. We cannot find work, and if we do find work we are working casual and have no rights or security at work. We do not have an income. We cannot move forward with our lives, take a respected place in our communities and form our own families. We are stuck.
On Sunday the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth league was hosted in settlements in Inanda, Ntuzmuma and KwaMashu (the INK settlements). We were excited to meet so many young activists but sad to find the issues that they are are facing at a community level, even the scholars. The issues in these areas are the same as the issues that the AbM youth are struggling with in areas like Richmond Farm, Siyanda and the Siyanda transit camp where we have also recently hosted meetings.
Many of the problems that our parents are facing are not different to the problems that we are facing as young activists. We are the first people that are being affected by the failure of the government to provide services to shack dwellers. If there is no water we are the ones that are supposed to go and get the water from the rivers. We are the ones that are supposed to go out in the dark to buy candles. Often we are the ones being raped at daylight, being stricken by the HIV/AIDs and addicted to drugs and alcohol.
We also suffer when there are evictions, when there are fires, and where there is police brutality against activists. But we also suffer from our own problems as the youth. Unemployment is worse for the youth and grants and what housing is available are only available for people with families. The failure to provide educational opportunities for all young people hits us very hard.
Again all these issues are only talked about only on the youth month. In community meetings we discuss the poverty, hunger and lack of information to young people and the lack of basic youth facilities needs like grounds to exercise and play sports, libraries and community halls. This has left a lot of questions to us.
If everyone says that the youth are the future, why are we being neglected like this?
If everyone says that the youth must avoid drugs and alcohol, why are we not been given real alternatives for our lives?
We thank all those elders that want to see the youth develop, like the Principal of Thobile Primary School who has opened doors to the youth.
It is clear that the youth need to organise ourselves to make our voice strong and to challenge this situation where young people have no jobs, no access to education and no income. Everyone in this world deserves a chance to make a decent life. Right now some people have too much and others have nothing. This is not fair.
What kind of society are we building here when the boss of Shoprite, Whitey Basson, can earn 627.53 million Rand in one year while millions of young people have no work and no hope for their lives? Twenty rich people in our country are owning 112.2 billion Rand, while 48% of South Africans, around 24 million people, are living on less than 322 Rand a month. This is unacceptable. This has to change. For us, progress is not a question of replacing white millionaires with black millionaires. For us progress is a question of building an equal society. We are not the problem. It is the concentration of wealth in the hands of people like Whitey Basson that is the problem. The tenderpreneurs are just making things worse by corrupting the state. For us progress means putting the worst off first. For us the road to progress is organising and struggling from below for a just society in which everyone has enough to meet their basic needs.
But we have to do all that we can to support the youth in the crisis that we are currently facing at the same time as we have to do all that we can to struggle to bring justice to this world.
After the meetings in the INK settlements it is clear that there is a serious and urgent problem of drug abuse. Drugs are eating at whatever hope the youth have been able to keep alive in these settlements. We have decided to organize a campaign around drug abuse in these settlements. We will visit the nearest rehab centre to explain the importance of the support of social workers to work with the community to help decrease the level of drug abuse in the community. As the AbM youth we are willing to work with the Social Development Department on these issues. Youth are dying while still waiting on the waiting list to access rehab. Something must be done urgently.
When people do get into rehab they come out of rehab not knowing where to go. When people come out of rehab they usually go back into the same situation that led them to abuse drugs in the first place. The biggest problem of all the problems is the lack of employment. This is why we are saying that every person should have a right to work or a right to a guaranteed income.
The government has failed to find a solution on these issues and they have failed to engage with the young people on these issues. We always find them having conferences in big hotels while the serious problems are on the community level. This is where engagement between the people and the state should be happening.
We as the youth of Abahlali baseMjondolo are not happy with the long waiting list for people to get into rehab. We are also not happy that the youth are unemployed and without an income. And we are not happy that most young people are not getting a good school education or the chance to study further after school. We are also unhappy about the lack of facilities for the youth. Therefore we will continue to struggle to pressure the government to take real action to these issues that we have raised.
We, as the Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth league, we say, “Long live the struggle of the youth! Long live!”