Connecting youth to their dreams through real role models

South Africa is home to what is believed to be one of the worst youth-unemployment problems in the world. The problem could get worse, as the country’s population is young- meaning we have hundreds of thousands of new job-seekers every year. 

Contributing factor include the difficulties many young people face when attempting to build their careers. In many marginalised communities, young people have no mentors and are exposed to a variety of unrealistic role model perceptions.  As a result of this, the current status quo is maintained – leaving youth throwing away their dreams and desperately pursuing any income-generating activities. 

It is this cycle that Activator, Unathi Jacobs, is trying to trying to change through her involvement in the ‘Outspoken Youth Initiative’ (OYI), where she is a part of the executive committee. The project serves to connect young people with different professionals. The mentors range from musicians, dancers, chefs, photographers to parliamentarians.  This project allows young people to be exposed to a different range of professions and also impressions on how they can develop their passions into careers.

OYI is looking to expand the programme in time and operate throughout the country. Although sports and arts will be the main focus, the dream is to have every young person exposed to a mentor in any field. To achieve this OYI is also strengthening its own internal capacity by ensuring that there are professionals within the organisation, contributing to this. 

The project is, however, not limited to mentorship. It is also used as a means to create awareness on a range of social issues. As Unathi Jacobs says, “it is through awareness of what is happening in one’s hood that one gets involved in creating social change”.

A Call For A Politically-Conscious Youth

Accountability for our country begins with the knowledge of its running. Plato states that, “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber”. Could this be the current situation we are facing as the South African youth?

It is said that knowledge is power but power is ineffective if not exercised. The youth have become a nation made up of individuals who are well informed and obsessed with international affairs, practically everything else besides South African political education. We are quick to list a number of services not delivered, proudly speak of the rights we are entitled to, demand explanations from the presidential office but are unable to explain vital government processes such as voting. The same process which determines who our policy makers are, which people we put in charge of our economy, who sits in office and determines what the standard of living should be.

Even though our parents were uneducated during the apartheid era, they were well informed about the policies and laws such as The land Act 1913 and the Group Areas Act, to name a few. They were politically conscious and knew which roles they played and had to play. As a country, we have travelled a wrenching journey from the oppressive era of apartheid that our parents and forefathers fought against, lost lives and finally obtained victory. To currently bring in what is referred to as a free South Africa, it seems our appreciation is shown through constantly undermining the past, currently deteriorating our state of political consciousness and the vague direction of our future. If there ever was a time to act, it would be now.

Our opportunities are endless, our ability to solve problems is extraordinary and the potential to be change drivers and leaders is almost certain if only we would inform ourselves accordingly. It’s time we knew how our government operates by engaging ourselves in the different aspects within our municipalities and enhance social development because essentially “I am because we are”. Let us take it upon ourselves to individually be responsible for our lack of information as well as our neighbors. The government should assist in creating programs within the communities where people are educated about the different channels of communication in terms of holding the municipalities accountable. Our educational system needs to introduce South African Politics and engage the youth intensely on the subject.

It is only when we are conscious of our potential and abilities that we are then able to recognise that change must come and we should be taken seriously. Such consciousness comes with a great hunger not only to inform oneself through education but to also assume the role of the educator. Young South Africans our time is now, an era of conscious young South African begins now.

Written by: Mmathapelo Motaung, Sithembiso Buthelezi, Nonkululeko Hlongwane, Sinothando Ndelu, Unathi Beku, Masixole Kente, Nathi, Christopher Lecheko, Nomvelo Gumede, Alex Khoza, Somila Sentwa, Anthony Arends

Opinion: E-tolls Won’t Affect The Poor

You, middle class, will just have to eat less cheese, shop less and spend less DATA tweeting about how bad e-tolls are and save for the road you will use. Let’s just not use the poor card this time, I tried to use it but I have no evidence. The poor will not be badly affected by e-tolls, so says a UCT study.

While playing the “I am poor card, etolls will affect me” I found myself in an awkward moment after realising that e-tolling won’t affect certain card holders.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s (Outa) challenge to stop e-tolling. Last year, the high court ruled that e-tolling could proceed because the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project had been lawfully instituted.

Since 2010, e-tolling has been on everyone’s lips. This debate has become very heated after President Zuma signed the bill last month. But it seems most people don’t really know what e-tolling is about.

In a 2007 (before the implementation of GFIP) Automobile Association (AA) study reported that, because of congestion, a 1 600cc vehicle, travelling between Pretoria and Johannesburg, spends an additional 122 minutes on the road each day.

This added up to a whopping 40 additional hours in the traffic every month and amounted to about 705l of fuel wasted, as a result of 469 hours of idling. At only R11.00 per litre of fuel that is an additional fuel bill of R7 775.

Following this, the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry released alarming conclusions about the congestions on the Gauteng freeway network. By 2010, congestion on the Ben Schoeman Highway cost over R15 million an hour. Meaning, the South African economy was losing a whopping R15 million due to the late arrival of goods and human capital in just an hour.

Business owners needed an improved network; otherwise the delivery of their goods would always be late due to congestion.

SANRAL had to act and respond to Guateng’s business and motorist needs. Gordon’s Treasury could not finance the roads upgraded and our taxes were not enough.

So SANRAL took out a loan of R20 billion and half of that loan was to be paid by Treasury.

Strong public and opposition outcry resulted in a failure to early implement e-tolling. As a result the loan kept on increasing.

By March 2013, it had increased to over R36 billion and by 2014 it will be over R39 billion.

Initially, the original loan was expected to be paid in June 2011 but it was not. So, Moody the rating agency showed its moods towards non-complaint debtors and downgraded SANRAL, dropping its credit rating.

SANRAL’s bad debt paying record and downgrade are bad for the South African economy and other state-owned enterprises. Its downgrade will make South Africa unfriendly to financing institutions. Finances are what we need for our infrastructure in a developing word.

“Political and Economy analysts (not opposition parties) took a calculated risk when signing the e-toll bill into law.” said President Jacob Zuma..

President Jacob Zuma did not only save SANRAL, but also potentially the government’s reputation, because a prolonged delay in signing the Bill would have had consequences for the economy.

The Public Outcry

Very often we talk about “the sense of entitlement” that the poor South Africans have. That they expect everything to come to them freely; we forget that all South Africans have that sense of entitlement to free things. How dare the government make us pay for our roads?

Facts are

Research concluded by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business concluded that e-tolling has more benefits than costs for business.

Their economic analysis revealed that the impact of e-tolls on the price of food and goods will be between 0.12% and 0.77% (below 1%). And increase in fuel levy would have had more than 1% good increase.

The study says ‘International research experience suggests that, in addition to normal accessibility improvements, businesses in a growing economy like Gauteng would benefit from increased efficiency in their labour markets. This may add 30% to 50% extra to conventionally assessed benefits.

The assumption that its implementation will result in high food prices and business costs has no evidence to back it. It’s just an assumption.

Public transport like your buses and taxis will not be affected by e-tolls. Wondering why the loud Taxi Associations are quiet? Well, there you have it. And if they increase taxi and bus fares, tell them they are exempted from e-tolling.

Why not use general taxes?

Well, I don’t want to be a clever black and act like I am MR KNOW IT ALL. But is public knowledge that user fees collected on tolls are used to finance the building, the upgraded and maintenance of those tolled roads.

Taxes on the other hand are used by government for services provided to everyone and they are not used to fund tolled roads.

Now tolls allow the Treasury to have more money for other services. Saying the Treasury should have paid for the 20 BILLION upgrade costs means that you wanted them to take food from the poor and feed big-business and middle-class South Africans that will be now moving swiftly at freeways.

If the mainly rich (e-tag affording) road users refuse to pay as they use, the Bill goes straight to the poor as money for other services will be used. Oh yes, that R36 Billion bill will have to be taken from monies for others services like building schools, RDP Houses, electrification and so on and so forth.

Why not the fuel levy?

Well, if we make this argument SANRAL would have to shut down all tolled roads across the country that already exists in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng.

Using a fuel levy would be grossly unfair; business and motorist in other provinces will have to pay for a road used by business and motorists in Gauteng.

DA’s Opposition

It’s rather opportunistic and political point scoring considering that the people in the Western Cape have travelled and had the vehicles we’re in stopped to pay in some tolling road blocks.

One of these tolls will be seen on Chapman’s Peak.

Premier Helen Zille’s website says “without tolling, Chapman’s Peak Drive will be permanently closed”.

My point is, like SANRAL, the DA led Western Cape government does support the principle of e-tolling. But for political scores in Gauteng, they will pretend like they don’t.

Let’s just not use the poor card this time, I tried to use it but I have no evidence. The poor will not be badly affected by e-tolls, so says the UCT study.

The middle class and your business will just have to eat less cheese, shop less and spend less DATA tweeting about how bad e-tolls are and save for the road they will use.

Injairu Kulundu on Bush Radio

Youths role in building a better future

Speaking at the recent ACTIVATE! Exchange in Cape Town, second year Activator, Tumi Jonas, spoke about the challenges that youth face towards defining their own role. She sounded a call to fellow young people to think through the problems they face thoroughly before jumping to creating solutions.

Preparing this presentation has been a challenge for me because I have struggled with the topic. It is difficult for me to talk about how government understands the role of youth when government does not seem to understand its own role, and when youth themselves are not clear on what their role is or should be.

I think it is more important for us to be able to answer the question ‘what is the role of young people in driving change?’ or rather ‘what should be the role of young people in driving change?’ then to answer the question on how Government understands the role of youth, as how youth understands their role should inform how government understands the role the of the youth.

I say this because I think that one of our problems as young people is that we suffer from identity dispossession, we do not have a national identity and we sponsor the eradication of this identity to the government. We need to figure out for ourselves what our identity is as the youth of South Africa and subsequently, what our role should be in driving change. We need to grapple with the facts and collectively discuss and work out the answers ourselves. We need to drive the discourse around issues that affect us, as young people, and collectively implement social solutions to social problems. We can no longer be at the receiving end of our own lives.

One of the biggest lessons I took from the 1st year programme with ACTIVATE! is the importance of doing a thorough analysis of what the problem is before jumping to solutions. I learnt how easy it is to come up with the wrong diagnosis and, therefore, the wrong prognosis.  This is one of the problems that we have as a country and as young people. 

We do not take time to thoroughly think about the problem and ask the right questions, we have so many answers that solutions have become more of a problem than the actual problem. This is dangerous as sometimes, if not most of the time, people get killed by the prescription and not the illness.

It is for this reason that I am here today without solutions. I think we need to pause for a moment; let us pause and think. Sometimes we get so action orientated that we forget to think. We, young people especially, with our now- now tendencies always want to jump to solutions without a proper understanding of what the problem is. 

Let us for a moment look at what some of these issues are. One cannot talk about youth and driving change and not mention the youth of 1976. We all know the story but the short of it is that those young people were able to mobilise themselves, they made an impact on a national scale, they changed the face of South Africa and showed us how powerful young people can be.

I mention the youth of 1976 because we ought to learn from the past, Ivan van Sertima puts it beautifully in his book Child of Africa when he says “History is a critical complement to contemporary reality. . . . It should charge us not only with a surge of new pride but the electric energy of creative action. For it to animate us thus, it will demand, it will most certainly demand, a corresponding animation of consciousness. . . . The vision of our former stature in the world must penetrate our consciousness so deeply that it begins to transform the degrading and dwarf-like habits of our present thought and action, habits which have crippled our progress.This heightened awareness of the best in our past can stimulate and inspire and heal us but it must blend intelligently with a maturing vision of the living present if it is to be of practical value.”

The sad reality is that young people since 1976 have not done anything worthy of being penned down in the books of history, we have not made a collective impact on a national scale that has brought about a positive change in the country. I am not referring to what government has done on behalf of the youth, I am talking about what , as young people, have done for themselves.

One might argue that it is perhaps because we face different challenges now; that we are living in a different time; that we are not fighting a war but I beg to differ.  Just because bullets are not flying about and swords are not flashing around us, does not mean that there is not a war going on. There are different modes of warfare.

Look at the state of our schools and the current trends amongst young people -you will see that we have an intellectual warfare.

Look at what is happening in our societies; young men raping the elderly, young people wasting away on drugs – you will see that we have a psychological warfare.

Look at the shocking conditions people live in; the poverty, unemployment -you will see the economic warfare.

Look at the number of people who have been taking to the streets, look at Marikana, look at the textbook saga, look all around – you will see the political warfare. 

We need to very quickly realise that we are in a crisis as a country and this crisis affects us directly as young people.

What government has created with its structures, policies and development plans is promote individual escape routes from social problems and the delusion that if one grabs enough money he can individually buy his way out of all his problems and discomforts. This has subsequently given a materialistic measurement to development, where government prides itself on the few young people whose businesses or organisations they have funded. These few young people who I call Thabos then become the yardstick. We are told to look at Thabo, look how successful Thabo has become while the conditions of the masses remain the same. 

We, the youth, need to understand that social problems require social solutions collectively devised and collectively implemented. We cannot adequately address social problems without addressing structural problems. Poverty, for example, is a social issue that needs to be addressed on a structural level. Poverty affects the majority of young people, it is a problem that needs to be addressed on a structural level. Yes we can do our part as individuals to help alleviate the problem but our efforts are structured by structural components. Poverty is not a natural catastrophe, it is not a Katrina of some sort, it is not God-made either. It is a structural problem that needs to be dealt with at a structural level. We cannot run from the fact that structural components shape our reality.

ACTIVATE! Is filled with young people who are doing amazing work in their communities and this is what gives me hope for this country but we need to capitalise on our numbers as young people and work on a national scale to bring about structural changes, lest we are prepared to forever be sweeping the water while the tap remains running. The population of this country is 60% youth but this alone is nothing to be proud, large numbers made of people who are unproductive is not an asset. Our numbers need to work for us, we need to capitalise on our numbers to drive change. 

We need to create an identity for ourselves, be at the forefront of everything that is youth related, we need to occupy the right spaces, we need to go back to the drawing board, re-examine our situation, take out our concept cards, dialogue around these issues, grapple with the facts and form an ideological base to inform our actions.  

The question was, what can government do to best support young people to drive change?

We are a country that supposedly works on representation and we young people make up 60% of the population. Simply put, government needs to create space for young people take charge, it needs to loosen its grip and let young people take centre stage. They need to make room for innovation to make its way to the top and trickle back down again. We are future leaders but the future starts today.

National Debate on Youth Topic: Youth in Conflict with the Law

Statistics suggest that Cape Town is the rape capital of the world. South Africa is ranked in the top 10 as the 7th top country with high crime rates according to Interpol statistics and World of Maps in 2013. This is poses a threat how attractive the country is to foreign investment and is a risk to keeping existing foreign investment. 

Youth make up the largest part of our population and they often fall victim to all the socio – economic issues of our countries either as victims or as perpetrators and one of those is crime. In a nutshell, they are the youth that are in conflict with the law.

To unpack this topic, the youth who are in conflict with the law need to be categorised into two groups as not all of them have committed serious crimes. There are those who have committed crime due to aggravating factors – major crimes fall under this category and those who have committed due to mitigating factors – this relates the minor cases.

Despite this categorisation, these crimes have to be dealt with according to the law and any resolution requires a criminal justice system that is effective and remains decisive. As we are working towards the development of the 2014-2019 National Youth Policy, it is of paramount importance that the government and various stakeholders take a closer look at issues affecting the youth and come up with ways that will keep a balance between the restoration of justice as well as dealing with the youth that are in conflict with the law and also the need to reform the capacity of correctional services in our prisons as the youth are the ones that are dominating the number of prisoners in our prisons across the country. The largest prison is found in the Northern Cape and the youth are the largest number of prisoners in the prisons and in many others around the country.

Currently, our criminal justice system is administered in terms of the Criminal Procedures Act of 1977; this law is not effective in dealing with the cases of the young law perpetrators who are in conflict with the law. These young perpetrators get to commit crimes, get arrested and released on parole. The resulting effect is that we see cases being on the court roll for many years even up until 2015 and beyond and this results in a situation of ‘justice long delayed is justice denied’.

In our quest to promote youth development, we need to take radical decisions and adopt firm policies especially in the development of the National Youth Policy. We need to have a strong clause and section in the policy that speaks against the youth who are in conflict with the law, one that calls for youth action on young criminals and one that calls and puts pressure on government to invest more in youth by reforming and improving the competitiveness of the youth agencies and civil society organisations.

This nation does not need the qualities of criminals and other law perpetrators in the youth of our country. But what this country needs is as Robert Kennedy once said, “a world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”

ACTIVATE! Exchange: Cape Town

Imagine what would happen if everyone worked together?
What are the game changers that will put the country on a trajectory to success?
How do we heal our woundedness as a nation?
What does it look like to show up for change?
What is the ideal South African identity?

Asking the right questions that will allow South Africa to unleash its full potential, was the central theme that youth leaders and stakeholders from the private,public and non-governmental sectors grappled with at the ACTIVATE! Exchange, the discussion forum of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, a youth leadership network, at the District Six Museum in Cape Town on 08 October 2013.

“We think we’re no longer in a state of war just because there aren’t bullets flying everyday but we are in a state of war – a state of psychological war – in which my identity has been disposed. We have to spend time making the correct diagnosis otherwise we will continue to sweep up the water while the tap remains on,” said Tumi Jonas, currently completing an Honours degree in Psychology at the University of Cape Town as well as the founder and secretary of ONE PATH AFRICA, a global peer-to-peer leadership network.

As a second-year Activator, Jonas is one of the growing body of young leaders that form the ACTIVATE! network that was founded in 2012 to identify and equip a critical mass of entrepreneurial and socially-aware young leaders between the ages of 20 – 30 with the skills and support that will enable them to become the change-makers needed to secure the country’s future success.

A core challenge to all South Africans, and the youth in particular, will be to face the issues of our wounded society with honesty so that we can reach an understanding of the structural reasons for marginalisation and then begin to build an inclusive identity based on a sense of solidarity, belonging and purpose, rather than on race or class, said David Harrison, the Chief Executive Officer of the DG Murray Trust and former director national HIV prevention programme, loveLife. 

“The ACTIVATE! Exchange affords us a platform to table the critical issues and to kick start a process to formulate strategies and touch points to address these collectively,” says Christ Meintjes, Chief Executive Officer of Activate! 

“Facing some of these issues may be challenging and even painful –  the idea of our collective woundedness and sense of feeling small in the face of each other, for example became a key discussion point yesterday in response to the question of  “why are we not standing up”  –  but it did equally allow us start formulating positive responses, and in this case, to  conclude that there is a potential for power in the vulnerability of woundedness because it opens up the ability to connect.” 

Among the speakers at the Cape Town ACTIVATE! Exchange were: 

David Harrison, Chief Executive Officer of the DG Murray Trust, who founded the Health Systems Trust, a non-government organization supporting health services development in South Africa and headed up LoveLife, a national HIV prevention programme for young people before joining DGMT. He also started the South African Health Review of Health and Health Care in South Africa, which is published every year. 

Zamandlovu Ndlovu, communications specialist with the National Planning Commission (NPC) responsible for the external communication of the NPC’s work and the National Development Plan’s progress. She is a patron for the Citizen ZA movement and an honorary member of the Golden Keys Society. 

Miranda Simrie, Director at KS & Partners Management Consulting who has worked in economic and social development, SMME support, and enterprise development for more than 10 years. She has been credited for conceptualizing and developing the 2012 Cape Town Entrepreneurship Week and has been recognized for her role as Principal Researcher and co-author of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2011 South African report.

Zikhona Tumi Jonas, a second-year Activator, psychology honours student as well as founder and secretary of ONE PATH AFRICA global peer-to-peer leadership network.

Akhona Mbenyana, a second- year Activator with extensive experience in the field of sustainability and environmental education, training and development. He has worked for SANCCOB, Omni HR Consulting, and has volunteered for organizations like Greenpeace Africa and Climate Action Partnership (CAP). 

Cindy-Lee Cloete, a second-year Activator and Environmental Education Director at Nature’s Valley Trusthas a National Diploma in Nature Conservation from Cape Peninsula University of Technology and a passion for Environmental Education.