South Africa`s Youth Finally Gearing The Wheels of Change

By: Dumisa Mbuwa

It is no longer a myth that the progress of South Africa`s youth was never at the forefront of our democracy in 1994. Nor was our youth, genuinely regarded as an instrumental part of the struggle against apartheid.

This reality is becoming evident by the day, despite the several reactional advances by the ANC government to make up for missed opportunities  to qualitatively develop  the youth of South Africa with the same historical vigour we used when conquering Apartheid.

Thus, as we celebrate Freedom Day, we ought to ask ourselves: has this grand democracy, which was greatly suffered and unimaginably sacrificed for, served our nation’s best interests? Or has it merely elevated only those who rightly brought about its realisation by putting them in the government at our expense?

For some time now, there has been a sustained debate around the issue of land expropriation without compensation; how its delay in implementation (full nationalisation) has been regarded as the core impediment for real growth and development our country has needed for 24 years. [1]

This view has been hammered into our minds everyday by embattled politicians s that we end up being convinced that it is shared by all South Africans; especially black South Africans.

This is despite that it has been proven several times that it is only a very marginal fraction of South Africans who believe that more land reform will indeed bring about the prosperity the country needs.

Comprehensive opinion polls commissioned by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) have repeatedly shown that most black South Africans have little interest in land reform. Their 2016 field survey indicated that only 1% of black respondents (down from 2% the previous year) indicated ‘more land reform’ as the ‘best way to improve lives’.  [1]

By contrast, an overwhelming 73% of black people saw ‘more jobs and better education’ as the ‘best way’ for them to get ahead.

Conversely, the IRR`s 2017 field survey showed that only 1% of black respondents identified ‘speeding up land reform’ as a top priority for the government. Even among people who lost land under apartheid laws, and were later compensated, most opted for cash compensation than having actual land restored to them.

Of the roughly 76 000 successful claims in post-apartheid South Africa’s land restitution process which begun in 1994, only about 5 800 chose to have land returned to them. The remaining 92% preferred cash compensation.

Similar results were found from a September 2017 opinion survey by eNCA, carried out among some 5 000 people, including roughly 2 700 self-declared ANC voters. Even here, most South Africans wanted “more pro-business policies”, over “more radical policies/redistribution”.

This is against the backdrop of the Government`s Land Survey, which has been used both by the ANC and the EFF to advance the misleading notion that SA blacks own less than 2% of rural land; and less than 7% of urban land. While whites own over 72% of farm land. [2]

These claims form the basis of the impending onslaught of property rights, that are currently protected by our country`s Constitution. The same property rights black people were deprived from having by the apartheid government.  [3]

It is for this reason, that in response, the IRR published a study early this year, where they have shown and proven that Black South Africans actually own more land than Whites and that the government is the biggest owner of land in the country (46%).  [4] For example, of the 3.2m ha of the urban land owned by 6.2 million individual South Africans, 3.2 million (56%) is owned by Black South Africans. While 1.55 (26%) is White and the rest is divided between Coloured’s (507 829), Indians (414 069) and Others.  [5]

Even when you look at the individually owned farmland by whites (the focus of the ANC/EFF`s claims); you will find that a substantial majority of this white-owned land is located in arid or semi-arid areas of the country. 43,1% is located in the Northern Cape alone, 11,3% in the Eastern Cape (most of it in the drier western parts of the province), 10,14% of it in the Western Cape, and 14,1% in the Free State.

The huge overlays that exist between such land and the arid or semi-arid areas in the western part of the country make this land unsuitable for cultivation in the absence of irrigation.

This is in addition to 13,1 million hectares (6,6% of the extent of SA) of agricultural land has been acquired and transferred by the government since 1994 through its land redistribution programme.

Little of this land would be individually owned today as most land claims and redistribution projects had multiple beneficiaries, and furthermore, since 2009, the government has held back from granting title to the beneficiaries of the land redistribution programme. In addition, government has made no effort to ensure those living on their ancestral land in former homeland areas acquire individual title to their land.

Now that we have established how faulty the Land debate is, especially since it is deeply predicated on lies and abysmal political propagandas, instead of viable solutions for taking our country forward, what can help take us forward?

Qualitative education and jobs!

You don`t have to be a social scientist to arrive at the realisation that South Africans need more of these than land. This observation is crystallised by the fact that between 2011 – 2016, over a million South Africans (mostly young) have migrated from “worse-off” provinces such as the Eastern Cape, to “better performing provinces” such as Cape Town and Johannesburg; looking qualitative education and jobs (not land).  [5]

Credit must be given to those young people, who in response to poverty and massive unemployment start initiatives that are primarily aimed at tackling these stubborn problems. Particularly aspiring entrepreneurs, who find and establish opportunities where they have been considered to have long expired.

Yet, these individuals are but a very small drop in the ocean of insecurity that affects close to 60% of unemployed young South Africans, almost like unemployed university graduates, who make up 170 000 of the 3.5 million unemployed youth.  [6]

What our country needs is comprehensive investment into rigorous and real-income job generating sectors such as manufacturing; where our young people can be able to create what the world consumes. Just as with China, where they make the dashiki`s, doeks, cellphones, tablets, stoves, microwaves and even electric bulbs; that we in turn spend billions of rands in consuming, instead of creating.

While there is a great deal of importance placed on higher university education, (particularly for black students) by the ANC government via “free” university education, internships for graduates. It must always be borne in mind that these endeavours are very meager in comparison to grade 4’s who cannot read to understand, many learners still progress into higher grades because teachers are unable to cater to the individual needs of learners due to the size of their classrooms. These learners eventually dropout mid-high school or fail grade 12.

Of what value is it to spend billions in squeezing learners into universities, when only 20% of them complete their undergraduate programs on time and the rest struggle mainly because of the higher reading levels required at university and the lack of funds to obtain the support and resources to succeed?

Is it not obvious then that we are putting too much emphasis on what uplifts only a few (university education), when the millions of young South Africans could be better off at (currently under-funded) TVET colleges; where they can be trained and placed into employment programs as technicians, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, manufacturers, and many other skills that are needed to rebuild our economy. Government jobs cannot be the fallback, which is currently where most South Africans work.

The simple truth is that not all young people can be doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, inventors, scientists, filmmakers or even record producers. To deny them focus on other avenues which could amplify their talents and serve our country with their output, is to deny the very thing that needs their hands to be sustained – Freedom!

Let us Rise! Our Future is no longer in the colours of our respective flags and races. It is on a common need to build a economically free South Africa, where all can live in complete harmony and relish every fruit of her prosperity.


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