Nelspruit- Youths listening to President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday during Youth Day celebrations in the Thulamahashe Stadium in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, say they were inspired by his words.
Many of the youths said it was important for the president to visit remote rural areas to inspire poverty-stricken youths and provide them with much-needed information.
Nonhlanhla Nkuna (19), a sub-district mentor for the provincial Department of Health and Social Development's youth empowerment agency, Musapatsela (Showing the way of life), said the youth in rural areas often lacked access to information.
"We are very concerned about the way the youth in this area behave themselves. There's a high rate of HIV, teenage pregnancy and high poverty. President Zuma talking about these issues was important.
"We also have little or no information about bursaries, how to write CVs, and how to market ourselves, so we need to join youth structures so that we know where to get information. It's because of a lack of information that youths are resorting to alcohol and drugs, and in the end of the day they do wrong things and blame the government," she said.
Most of the 20 000 people who attended wore school uniforms in honour of the march by school children on June 16 1976, in protest against the forced use of Afrikaans in schools, which led to 23 people being killed as well as intensified hostility between township youth and the police.
The crowd - which also featured a smattering of people in Bafana Bafana T-shirts, applauded loudly during Zuma's speech, which focused on the progression the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) had made in its first year since inception.
Hasani Mthethwa (24), a student from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria who lives in Thulamashe, said it was important that Zuma had spoken about the challenges that face the youth.
"We are happy that Zuma came to this remote area of our province. We are also glad that he spoke about the problems we, as the youth, experience today, like HIV and the economy. He encouraged us to use the NYDA to empower ourselves."
Mthethwa said the youth still felt the relevance of the events that took place on this day 34 years ago.
"Without that day, the World Cup would not have happened. It is through the blood of Hector Pieterson that it was possible for us to become free."
Zuma was accompanied by a high-profile provincial delegation that included Premier David Mabuza, public works, road and transport MEC Clifford Mkasi and former MEC for local government and housing, Candith Mashego-Dlamini.
Zuma is currently attending the first FIFA World Cup game in the newly built Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit between Honduras and Chile, which kicked off at 1:30pm.
After the delegation had left, the crowd stayed to enjoy the game in the stadium, which is also a FIFA Public Viewing Area. They were entertained by, among others, hugely popular local Shangaan disco king General Muzka.