Youth urged to participate in building a prosperous SA

Saturday, June 16, 2018

In the eternal words of Solomon Mahlangu, who said his blood would nurture the tree of the fruits of freedom, the current generation of youth have been urged to channel their energies into building a prosperous South Africa.

“The tree, which is our country, was watered by the blood of the young people back then. Now we need to water it with our sweat… We need to work hard and toil as young people to build the future generation and build our young people now,” said 23-year-old Puno Selesho.

Selesho, who is part of the Youth Employment Service (YES) programme, was at Saturday’s commemoration of Youth Day in Soweto. She was among the thousands of young people who turned up for the Thuma Mina walk, which got underway at Morris Isaacson High School early this morning.

The walk from the high school to the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Khumalo Street, Soweto, was part of honouring the students who partook in the Soweto uprisings 42 years ago.

Launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March, the YES initiative between business, government, labour and civil society will see businesses creating one-year paid positions for youth aged between 18 and 35, with a minimum paid stipend of R3 500 a month. 

“Young people are so powerful in so many different ways and it comes naturally to us. I urge young people to keep moving no matter what sphere we are in,” Selesho told SAnews.

Her comments echoed the words of struggle hero Mahlangu’s words, which he uttered prior to being executed by hanging in April 1979.

Saturday’s walk kicked off on a highly spirited note, with youth boldly marching to the memorial site. People from far and wide, including the United States, joined in the commemoration. A member of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, who only identified himself as Issey, said he admired how South Africa rose out of the doldrums of apartheid to overcome its challenges.

President Ramaphosa was joined by various dignitaries, including Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, in laying a wreath at the memorial bearing the image of 18-year-old Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying the lifeless body of a young Hector Pieterson.

Thirteen-year-old Pieterson was one of the first victims of the uprising, which began as a peaceful protest by 20 000 black students opposed to the apartheid government's introduction of Afrikaans as the language of instruction at school.

Prior to laying the wreath, President Ramaphosa participated in the Thuma Mina walk, which ended at the memorial located in Orlando West.

The walk retraced and symbolically signified the footsteps of the youth 1976. 

This year’s Youth Day is commemorated under the theme ‘Live the legacy: Towards a socio-economically empowered youth’ in the year that marks what would have been President Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. Youth Day is also being commemorated in the year that marks the centenary of struggle heroine Mama Albertina Sisulu.


In his speech commemorating Youth Day in 1996, South Africa’s first democratically elected President Mandela said the day brought back memories “of tender young bodies strewn on the streets in the silence of death, in the fading smoke of the policeman’s gun, and amid the tears of whole communities”. 

The commemoration also comes following the passing of Sam Nzima, the photographer who took the iconic Pieterson photo. The respected photographer and struggle activist passed away in hospital in Nelspruit on 12 May following a short illness. -