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Keynote address by Deputy President Shipokosa Paulus Mashatile at the National Youth Day Commemoration, Old Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane

Programme Directors, Ms. Maropene Ramokgopa, the Acting Minister of Sport, Arts, and Culture, and Ms Nakedi Grace Kekana, the MEC for Sport, Arts, and Culture; 
Premier of Limpopo, Dr. Phophi Ramathuba;
Speaker of Limpopo Province, Ms Mmakoma Makhurupetje;
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr. Ronald Lamola;
Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Ms Nocawe Mafu;
Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms Tolashe;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers Present;
The Executive Mayor of Polokwane Local Municipality; Councillor John Mpe;
The Executive Mayor of Capricorn District Municipality, Councillor Mamedupi Teffo;
Ms. Asanda Luwaca; Chairperson of the NYDA, and the leadership of the NYDA;
The CEO of the Youth Employment Service, Mr Ravi Naidoo;
Leaders of Political parties here present;
Leaders of all youth formations;
Young people of South Africa,

Thobela! Avuxeni! Ndi Matsheloni! Molweni! Dumelang!

The national youth day this year takes place on the day we are also celebrating Father’s Day. We urge you to continue to support your children and families. Your role is beyond your immediate children and families. We also urge the children and families to spoil your fathers today. 

It is my honour to address this Youth Day celebration in a place named after one of our country’s greatest sons, Peter Ramoshoana Mokaba, the Lion of the North, who is also known for his role as a leading voice among the youth in the struggle against apartheid. 

Today, we remember and salute him and the brave youth who fought for liberation. These warriors showed unwavering determination and were willing to risk their lives against the oppressive regime. 

The uprisings especially in 1976 were a powerful statement of the youth's desire for change and a better future.

It was a brave act of defiance against a system that sought to suppress their potential and destroy their dreams. The ideals for which they lived and died should serve as a great source of inspiration for all of our country's youth as they pursue inclusive economic growth.

As we traverse the economic challenges, we urge the youth to adopt the same attitude as Hector Peterson, Mbuyisa Makhubu, Tsietsi Mashinini, and all the youth of 1976, whose sacrifices gave birth to our political freedom. Their efforts have set us on the right path towards a South Africa that is non-racial, non-sexist and democratic.
It is because of their contribution we were able to vote in the 7th National and Provincial Elections, in which more than 16 million South Africans exercised their democratic right to vote without fear or intimidation.

On the 14th of June, we witness the ushering in of the 7th Parliament through the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, more importantly we elected two women whom we are confident that will lead our parliament to greater heights. 

Equally we witness the very motto of our country being put into practical action, unity in diversity. In our diversity we put our differences and voted for the President elect, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.
We are confident that under President Ramaphosa and the ANC led Government of National Unity, we will continue to address the challenges facing young people in this country. In this regard, we will in the next five years focus on creating jobs, building an inclusive and growing economy. We will equally focus on implementing programmes focusing on skilling the youth with the skills of the future. 

Fellow South Africans,

After three decades of democracy, we have once again demonstrated our dedication to the values and principles of democracy through free and fair elections. The elections were a clear demonstration of the strength and vibrancy of our constitutional democracy, highlighting our firm confidence and faith in our transparent and democratic processes.

Similar to the events of 1994, the long queues witnessed on voting day served as an affirmation that our democracy is alive at work. 

Through your vote, you have spoken and given us all a clear message. 

You want us as political leaders to put our differences aside, and work together to build our country and address the challenges affecting our people, particularly the youth of our country.

We are determined to put our differences aside and use our collective strengths, skills, and experience to create the South Africa that the fallen heroes of the 1976 uprising fought for.
In working towards achieving the National Development Plan 2030 vision, which aims to eradicate poverty and decrease inequality, we need to keep in mind that young people make up more than two-thirds of the population, making them the biggest community.

Therefore, we cannot move forward without the youth of our country. 

The National Development Plan places youth at the centre of our country's development, correctly arguing that youth participation in our development initiatives is critical to meeting our growth targets. As a result, we must include young people in discussions that influence their current and future growth.

We are all aware of the challenges that the current generation of youth face which include poverty, social inequality, poor mental health and high levels of unemployment. 

We are also aware that funding has been a challenge as a result of the administrative challenges at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Together with the youth we will ensure that NSFAS is administered efficiently, effective and that no one is left behind. 
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme remains a critical vehicle that supports students from poor and working-class families, with over 70% of university students and more than 90% of TVET college students benefiting from NSFAS bursaries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must collectively address these challenges; neither the government nor the private sector should be solely responsible for them. These challenges necessitate a "whole of society approach”.

We have to work together to provide youth, especially those in remote rural areas, with better access to quality education that can empower them with the basic skills to become more productive in society. We need to equip young people with the necessary skills to adapt to the labour market, especially to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

This means that we must take more steps to connect our communities to ICT infrastructure. In April of this year, I had the honour of launching Phase 2 of the South Africa Connect programme, which intends to bridge the digital divide between the wealthy and the disadvantaged. This effort seeks to empower young people to participate in the global society and create or find employment from the comfort of their own homes.

We must also collaborate to address the growing concern about poor mental health among young people. Even more worrying is that mental health services and support systems are often inadequate, leading to the non-diagnosis and lack of treatment of mental illnesses.

Moreover, many young people have been negatively affected and socially excluded due to the social stigma associated with mental illness and disabilities, as well as the bullying and rejection of LGBTQI+ individuals.
As we celebrate Pride Month, we must remember that LGBTQI+ people are more than twice as likely as straight men and women to experience mental health issues in their lifetime. They have a 2.5 times higher risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse than heterosexuals. We cannot allow this to continue on our watch. We need to protect everyone's rights and support those who require healthcare.

As young people, I urge you to use your voice to condemn injustice and unfair treatment of LGBTQI+ individuals. 

I would like to commend the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, for promoting the Sports for Youth Development (S4YD) initiative as a serious medium of intervention that promotes the physical and mental health of our youth and reinforces the fact that young people are at the heart of South Africa’s work to promote unity, active citizenry, peace, and development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

As we develop young people socially, we must also not lose sight of empowering them economically.

Economic growth, transformation, and job creation have been at the forefront of the Sixth Administration's programme, hence, the theme of this year’s Youth Month is “Actively embracing the socioeconomic gains of our Democracy”.

Since 2019, we have implemented a range of growth-enhancing structural reforms to remove the constraints that have held back growth, attract higher levels of investment, and make our economy more efficient and competitive.

At the top of government's list is making sure that young people get the education and skills they need. Like the father of our nation, Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon with which we can change the world.’ Through education, the youth can be empowered towards economic freedom.

Over the years, we have invested hugely in a transformed education system. We pride ourselves on the fact that our spending on education, as a proportion of overall government expenditure and GDP, far exceeds the benchmarks set by UNESCO, which recommends allocating 15–20% of public spending and 4–6% of GDP to education.

Despite the country's challenging financial circumstances, the government continues to invest in youth human capital development, allocating R31.8 billion for basic education in 2023 and R130.1 billion for post-secondary education and training in 2022.

Moving forward, we will continue to invest in the establishment of an inclusive education system that provides quality education to children from low-income and working-class families, beginning in the foundation phase and continuing through to higher education.

We are committed to addressing the plight of youth through the NYDA's job creation and enterprise development programmes.

Additionally, the NYDA provides a variety of programs to assist individuals pursuing higher education.

Today, I had the privilege of meeting the beneficiaries of the NYDA program and trailblazers who are optimistic about our country's future.

This includes Marumo Masemola, who, through the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund, obtained her Bachelor of Accounting Science degree at the University of Limpopo.

In February 2024, she qualified as a chartered accountant. She continued her membership with the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) on a national level and now serves under the Professional Development Committee, where she advises the youth about career opportunities to follow and how to navigate being a young professional.
Additionally, I have had the opportunity to engage with Alwande Sikhosana.

Alwande is a Paralympic athlete who is currently ranked number one in Africa and 25th in the world. He won the first African Paralympic Games and qualified for the Paralympics. He uses sports to inspire young people and show that nothing is impossible. As Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”

I also had the opportunity to engage with one of Limpopo's finest, Clement Maosa of Skeem-sam, who hails from Ga-Rammutla village. He exemplifies how one's aspirations can transcend geographical boundaries.

Despite their age, these young people have seized the opportunities provided by this democratic government and are significantly contributing to the development of our country.

As the government, we want to see more young people actively involved in the economy and participating in decisions that affect their lives. Our democracy has provided you, as young people, with unprecedented opportunities for growth and development.

As the youth, it is incumbent upon you to actively embrace these socio-economic gains and leverage them to create a better future for yourselves and generations to come.

We need young people to rise up for themselves and become the change they desire. This time around, young people have a government that cares for, prioritizes their needs, and wants to see them succeed, unlike the government of 1976. 

Our comprehensive approach to reducing youth unemployment includes formal education, internships, and assistance for youth entrepreneurship through the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention. These development and empowerment initiatives provide young people with the support they need to face and overcome obstacles they face.

The government has implemented initiatives to increase youth participation in the economy, such as the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme. This programme has provided opportunities to over one million participants, 84% of whom are young people.

The government has also implemented the Employment Tax Incentive to encourage the private sector to hire more young people by sharing the cost of employment with employers, encouraging the hiring of large numbers of young people.

In addition, the government has also introduced social employment initiatives that aim to address local needs such as community safety, early childhood development, and gender-based violence.

Furthermore, we responded to the need for skills development and youth employment by allowing unemployed graduates to gain experience through the Public Service Graduate Internship and Learnership Programme.

In order to strengthen service delivery, build patriotism, promote nation-building, foster social cohesion, and help the youth acquire the occupational skills necessary to access sustainable livelihood opportunities, we have revitalized the National Youth Service Programme (NYS).

We remain committed to championing programmes and initiatives that limit the impact of unemployment on young people.

To date, over 4.8 million young people have registered on, a zero-rated online platform for young South Africans to access opportunities for learning and earning.

As the government rolls out these various programmes to draw young people into the economy, we need young people themselves to take up the challenge. Youth have the potential, through united action, to turn around the challenges of unemployment and take their rightful place in our society.

As we celebrate our achievements, we must also commit to addressing these challenges head-on and working towards a more equitable and inclusive society for all.

As the government, especially in this 7th administration, we will do everything in our power to mobilise all the resources we have to create better opportunities for young people.

We commit to improving our actions and prioritising your needs. We will not go down the road that would be detrimental to our nation's future and the sacrifices made by the heroes and heroines of June 16. 

We must never forget that today's youth will become tomorrow's leaders, and failing to adequately prepare them for these responsibilities will only lead the nation into a downward spiral and a bleak future.
Without the employment of young people, growth cannot occur. They represent our hopes for a better and more prosperous society, as envisioned by the NDP.

Young entrepreneurs, innovators, and other professionals will propel us as a nation, creating a more diverse and transformed economic landscape.

I am confident that the 7th Administration will continue with efforts to position young people as essential drivers and beneficiaries of economic transformation.

I urge all stakeholders, including business, civil society, and labour, to work with the current government to address all issues affecting young people.

Any contribution to youth empowerment is an investment in a brighter future for our country.

I Thank You.

 Union Building