This article was written for the 2017 Moithuti publication, but it’s very much relevant today…
Viewpoint: Reflections on the youth of 1976, Making the way for our future.
By Tokologo TK Mphahlele
As we traverse through Month of June, we do so cognitive of the mammoth task ahead given our own prevalent material condition as youth and students in particular. The year marks 42 years since the heroic display by the 1976 generation. We salute those who started the Uprising in Soweto on the 16 June 1976 and are not with us today such as Tsietsi Mashinini, Lassie Ndlovu, Khotso Seatlholo, Hector Petersen to mention but a few. As the student movement we have said and thus reiterate that the struggle advanced by the generation of 1976 was not entirely youth in general but students in particular. Their unity of purpose cemented their strength.
We thus commemorate them for their zealous and courageous contribution in the struggle for liberation; as their generational mission. They stood firm; albeit the torturing, killing and detaining they feared nothing and thus rose to the occasion and channelled their energy to defeat the unjust, brutal and cruel apartheid regime. It is because of their sacrifices that we today enjoy a democratic dispensation.
We will never forget their sacrifice as they operated with enthusiasm, zest and determination to defeat the enemy exhausting all means at their disposal, from stones to sticks, to petrol bombs, dustbin lids, to mass-mobilization, school boycotts to stay-aways; to exert pressure from all angles on the brutal apartheid regime and its manifestations. Karl Marx was on point when he alluded that “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past”. As a result, we need to develop a coherent strategy to navigate our present-day challenges and obstacles. We dare not venture into a wishful thinking for different circumstances.
With more than 22 years into the democratic breakthrough, the majority of youth are still NEET (not in education, employment or training), which paints a very bleak picture for our country. The poor continue to reproduce themselves with little hope of breaking the poverty cycle. Poverty, youth unemployment and class inequality continue to be reflective of the racial and gender divide in our country today. Our active role in policy discussions must enable us to fragment this sad state of affairs.
The words of President Oliver Reginald Tambo are more relevant today when he accordingly alluded that: “A country, a movement, a people, that does not value its youth, does not deserve its future”. Equally, the inverse of this statement is also true that – a youth that does not value their country, movement and people, do not deserve their future. The current state of youth is appalling and cannot remain unscathed, with a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode anytime soon. This is demonstrated by the recent Statistics indicating that SA has 48% of the youth between the ages of 15-34 who are unemployed. Where have we gone wrong?
Hence we boldly refuse to merely remember the 1976 generation, but rather draw significant teachings and lessons from their fighting spirit. To further walk in their footsteps to confront our modern-day challenges that include youth unemployment, abject poverty, academic and financial exclusions, AIDS and other diseases, illiteracy, lack of patriotism, alcohol and drug abuse etc. Until such time we are yet to fully enjoy the fruits of our young democracy.
The prevalent material conditions dictate that we take the baton; intensify our fight to fundamentally break the poverty cycle thus agitate for re-industrialization of our economy and taking bold steps to expand the role of the state into the economy, which must translate into fundamental shift of the ownership patterns of the economy; encapsulated with the introduction of quality free education, elevation of young entrepreneurs, speeding up the implementation of co-operatives, the return of the land to our people, the development of a state-owned bank etc. This is cognitive of our revolutionary understanding that “We are the current generation we determine the future”. As the youth of today, we have a revolutionary obligation to be pro-active and play our part in dealing with daily struggles we are confronted with.
A silver platter approach has and continues to prove to be a recipe for disaster. In their honour, we ought to unite and leave no stone unturned. We owe it to them. We owe it to the future.
Tokologo TK Mphahlele is SASCO Limpopo Chairperson
Political Report to the 19th National Congress of SASCO- NWU 10-13 December 2015
Repositioning the ANCYL for the future: A strategic perspective (2016)