The Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams hosted a “Youth Walk into Economic Opportunities” event as a joint programme with six deputy ministers including the Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Thabang Makwetla in Ermelo, on 23 June 2018. The programme which was geared towards youth development, attracted scores of young learners, unemployed graduates, youth entrepreneurs as well as youth who are in conflict with the law from in and around the Gert Sibande District Municipality.
The youth were joined by Deputy President David Mabuza, the Premier of Mpumalanga Refilwe Mtsweni, district and local mayors, representatives from public entities, private companies and civil society. The year 2018 marks 42 years since the June 16, 1976 uprising, which saw young people in Soweto lose their lives in the fight against the apartheid government for freedom and democracy.
The day commenced with a 3km walk leading up to the economic opportunities exhibition centre, which showcased academic, career and business opportunities as well as civic services. The aim was to show the various opportunities available in government and other sectors, and enable young people to apply for bursaries, develop curriculum vitae, apply for jobs online, develop business proposals, register companies and domain names, create their business websites, open bank accounts and apply for civic services, including other government services on wheels to empower the youth in Mpumalanga to “be the legacy.”DCS presented an Ex-offender entrepreneurship expo, motivational talks by parolees and exhibited offender artwork as well as a mobile mock cell with the aim to dissuade youth from engaging in crime. During the walk-about at the DCS stall, the Deputy President and his entourage of Deputy Ministers praised the efforts by DCS to rehabilitate offenders by skilling them during their incarceration so that they can start their own businesses upon their release.
The final part of the programme was in the form of an Imbizo whereby young people engaged political principals about their challenges and proposed solutions. Issues raised included lack of funding to further studies, lack of funding to start businesses, high unemployment rate, scarce opportunities for youth living with disabilities, payment delays by government entities to SMME’s, fast tracking the impact of government programmes aimed at developing youth, lack of recreational facilities and a variety of other service delivery challenges in their immediate communities.
In his response, Deputy President Mabuza said he is aware of the challenges of Mpumalanga as a former premier of the province and urged the youth to take the baton from the youth of 1976 to assist government in tackling their challenges. “The youth of ’76 fought for freedom; your mission is to fight ignorance, and to fight for economic emancipation. Our young people must be prepared to be the ‘Thuma Mina’ brigade and get their hands dirty by working the land. Youth must stand up and seek assistance to acquire skills needed to advance your communities.”
Mabuza spoke strongly against ill-discipline amongst the youth and encouraged a change of mind-set in how youth approach life. He specifically lamented the burning of schools and destruction of properties during protests, saying they are defeating the gains made by government for the people who need it the most. He further expressed gratitude to all departments and stakeholders that contributed towards the success of the programme and encouraged continuous healthy engagements that will assist to move the country forward.