Close to 400 young people gathered at Site B, library hall in Khayelitsha to commemorate June 16 1976. Forty year since the uprising by young people in Soweto that later spread to other parts of the country. What started as protest against use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools become a general struggle against the whole Apartheid system. The event was organised by Khayelitsha based Progressive Youth Movement (PYM). The theme of the event was on hardship caused by unemployment and was also exploring ways of dealing with it.
“Unemployment is like a virus to young people, just like T.B., it is like HIV/AIDS, and it is like Asthma! When you are unemployed you are like being attacked by a deadly disease, dying slowly, you dignity is taken away, no one takes you serious at home and in the community” said Unathi Malteno a PYM member. “This is why I joined PYM so that I can be able to fight back against unemployment for decent sustainable jobs in Khayelitsha” he said.
The Programme Director Sithabele Mhlanga also a member of PYM said it was important to celebrate the heroic struggles and the contribution made the youth of 1976 but we must link these struggles to what is happening today in our lives. She said that more than 40% of the economically active population of Khayelitsha is unemployed. Majority of those who are unemployed is young people.
Speakers from Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Human Rights Commission (HRC), Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC), Africa Unite, and People’s Health Movement (PHM), all raised concerns about unemployment in the country and in Khayelitsha.
Dominic Brown of Amandla Magazine spoke on behalf of unemployed graduates. He encouraged the youth in Khayelitsha to use their talents and their energy to mobilise against unemployment. He said that having education does not guarantee anyone a job these days, while it is important to be educated we also need to organise ourselves and fight for decent jobs. We must really on our own efforts and creativity. We must use our collective strength to compel the government to look into the question of unemployment.
“People say that foreigners come into the country and steal jobs from the local people, is there plenty jobs that are being created, that are now being stolen by foreigners”? Tinashe Njanji, a Zimbabwean national who is working here in South Africa, asked. He spoked on Unemployment and Xenophobia. The truth of the matter is that there is a problem of scarcity of jobs in the country and this cannot be blamed on foreign people he said.
The Human Rights Commission asked what the young people understood as human rights. A youngster from the floor gave his own interpretation, he said “Human Rights means an end to unemployment. It means that my parents must have a house, earn a living, put food on the table and support me with my studies” It is sad that after more than twenty years of democracy this is not happening! What is Human Rights Commission going to do about this he asked?
Thembeka Majali from One Million Climate Jobs Campaign told the gathering that it was possible for government to create one million climate jobs for the unemployed in the country. This can only happen when the country move away from use of fossil energy that contribute to global warming, climate change and environmental degradation. Government support of peoples’ controlled light manufacturing industry that uses renewable energy would be able to create sustainable and decent climate jobs, she said.
Zama Timbela a PYM activist, explained that the movement was formed in 2011 by young people in Khayelitsha. The township is growing fast with almost half million people. The population is fairly young at the average age of35 years. More than 40 % of the economically active population is unemployed. Those who are employed are supporting the household of between three and six people and sometimes more. Only a third of the population has passed Grade 12 and less than 50% has some secondary education.
Although there has been some development in Khayelistha since its establishment in early 1980s there are still lacks most basic services. A significant number of people do not have flashing toilets, live in informal settlement, share water taps! City of Cape Town 2011, census painted a grim picture of the social conditions in Khayelisha. PYM is a movement of young people formed to respond to these conditions said Zama Timbela.
“We voted in 1994 with an X and it seems that now we made a mistake maybe we should have used another symbol not X because there seems very little has changed said Noncedo an unemployed activists working in the housing sector. The crowd was entertained by various local groups and artists. They sang, danced and enjoyed themselves the whole day. For a moment they forgot about the misery of unemployment!
Progressive Youth Movement Contacts: Zama 076 731 6157 and Tholakele 071 716 5700