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Parliament, Friday, 16 June 2023 – The Presiding Officers of Parliament, led by Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, call on government, the business community, and other sectors to intensify investment in young people and to harness their energy to build the economy.

The year 2023 marks the 47th anniversary of the 16 June 1976 Soweto uprising, when scores of young people were brutally shot and killed by the apartheid police force. The event led to many subsequent uprisings that inspired strong resistance against the regime that shook the foundations of the minority government, throwing it into crisis and forcing the declaration of the state of emergency in July 1985.

Youth Day is a solemn occasion to reflect on these tragic events, which became a catalyst, inspiring a nation and its people to intensify the fight against the oppressive apartheid system. Since 1994, 16 June has been designated National Youth Day. This year, the theme of National Youth Day and Youth Month will be: Accelerating youth economic emancipation for a sustainable future.

Parliament acknowledges the importance of investing in the youth, ensuring their economic empowerment and securing a sustainable future for all. Together, we strive to create an environment where young people can thrive, contribute to the economy and fulfil their potential.

Through its sectoral parliament programme, the national legislature is launching a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) drive across all nine provinces, to identify and encourage young people with robotics and coding skills to harness 4IR and integrate it into the world of work. This initiative is expected to serve as a launch pad for youth participation in the economy and reduce the rising number of unemployed people.

The recent budgets presented by government departments in May 2023 must provide the necessary assistance and resources young people need to overcome the socio-economic challenges and take up their rightful place in the economic development of their nation.

During his budget vote speech, the Minister of Higher Education and Training set his department a target of creating 110 500 workplace-based learning opportunities, registering 149 000 learners in skills development programmes, 23 000 learners in artisanal programmes, 21 000 learners to study artisanal trades, 32 550 learners to complete learnerships, and 6 450 learners to complete internships.

The recently adopted Appropriation Bill proposed an allocation of 74% to transfers and subsidies, including payment of university subsidies and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. NSFAS administration and other role players are expected to ensure quick disbursements of allowances to students and service providers to avoid disruption of lessons and unnecessary stress to learners.

Through the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) as an implementing agent, the Ministry of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities has a three-year allocation of transfers amounting to R1.8 billion to support and foster entrepreneurship among young people and create employment pathways through cross-sectoral collaborations. A further R250 million has been allocated to the agency for the 2023/2024 financial year for the national youth service programme, a component of the presidential employment initiative that is aimed at training young people through participation in community services.

Parliament is closely monitoring and ensuring appropriate oversight over government’s commitment to draw more young people into the economy, through programmes such as the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, among others, including formal education and training opportunities, learnerships and internships, as well as comprehensive support for youth entrepreneurship.

High levels of unemployment pose a major impediment to the economic empowerment and social mobility of young people. With government agencies leading the way in curbing unemployment, we also call on the private sector to intensify efforts and find initiatives to empower the youth for a brighter and sustainable future.

During this Youth Month, let us, as a nation, forge a united front to confront all these challenges as we pay homage to the youth of 1976 and recognize the role of young people in the liberation struggle in general. Let us also salute the courageous youth of today who continue to show resilience and audacity to succeed despite the odds.

Enquiries: Mr Moloto Mothapo