On desks and chairs inside a large classroom decked with images of uniform-clad protesting teenagers sits a group of 32 equally young teenagers; spellbound. Among them is a younger version of myself, learning about the Soweto Uprising for the first time. It’s June 2002 and as my 40-something year old teacher retells a combination of personal anecdotes and gory details of June 16 1976, I find myself intrigued, inspired and mystified by the event in equal measure. Learning about June 16 from the percieved “safety” of post-apartheid South Africa, it immediately feels unreal to me and long before I can comprehend that, am quickly fascinated by the sense of purpose, vision & mental strength it must’ve taken from each of the now-iconic protestors to face off with an enemy as systemically and spiritually-debilitating as the apartheid machine – at such a young age. This, all 32 of us agree, was a special generation. That the event is brought to us via the emotionally-charged black & white imagery of Sam Nzima makes it an even more surreal, almost artistic experience for us. By the end of our special June 16 class, many of us admire the class of ’76 so much that we begin to recognise them as near-myth: an event of history bordering on legend that our teacher’s tone suggests may never be necessitated again.
Today, as a young journalist and the editor of a political content platform for youth, June 16 has become more important to me than a ‘special event’ of our dark history. The image of a dying Hector Pieterson in Mbuyisa Makhubo’s arms shakes me still, but no longer decidedly makes me think of the past. This morning, Sam Nzima’s iconic image no longer saddens me, but reminds me of the courage one must call upon when daring to contend with any of the challenges that define a generation. 38 years later, the images of thousands of boys & girls singing, dancing, shouting and chanting in uniform reminds me that it was a confrontation of their right to self-identify – a central theme of life for modern youth – that drove that generation to singlehandedly stoke the fire of the anti-apartheid revolution when the apartheid government tried to cull it by caging its older, better recognised icons. Most significantly, it’s become clearer to me that the young people that led the uprising weren’t mythical or ‘special’ in any particular sense, the protests were in fact led by ‘ordinary’ youth. And therein lies the magnificent truth: there’s nothing ordinary about youth. It’s inherent to young people to be defiant, visionary, explorative and bold enough to want to alter the circumstances into which they are born. The ’76 generation’s aspirations toward an education system that wouldn’t limit their future is wrought by that old mega-tenet of the youthful worldview – defiance. Today, in a society in continual transition from apartheid, encountering vast & complex economic & political implications along the way, the transformation of apartheid-born norms, standards, systems & ideas necessitate such a youthful worldview still.
In today’s THE LATEST WITH MOLEFI: Youth Special, we celebrate the youthful spirit that continues TODAY: a 33 year-old parliamentarian continues on his epic mission to rejig South Africa’s economic agenda while revolting against the democratically-elected majority party’s disappointing attitude toward accountability; and as questions of youth unemployment & education have arisen, so too have we – the young – responded. In the 1st of our Youth Month Editorial Features published this week, Makale Ngwenya, a young economist, critically comments on struggle icon Cyril Ramaphosa’s fanciful promises on job creation in her article: The Devil In The Detail; her feature is followed closely by that of 19 year-old Mamaili Mamaila, a student who comments on how our eduction system faces far broader challenges than just the 30% pass mark in her feature: LET THE 30% ISSUE REST. As is customary every June 16, comparisons between the ’76 generation and our own have risen. In a response that is pertinent and then some, Rofhiwa Maneta pens a poetic, critical piece about the complexities of identity that freedom has wrought in the context of modern South African society in his June 16 feature: Young & Free.
We, the kids, are alright.
Want more? Read on compadre.
What did Ju’ say?
Depending on who you ask, the irrepressible Julius Malema (33) last week made his long anticipated and equally long-dreaded debut in parliament a spectacular event on Wednesday morning. At the launch of his political party in October last year, Juju promised to shake things up when he reached parliament & true to his word, has certainly brought down the house. Giving his first ever speech in parly, the EFF Commander-in-Chief single-handedly shifted the levels of interest in parliament to never-before reached proportions and may have made particularly stoked a newfound interest in politics for the reality TV-gobblers among us. Things will never be the same, compadre. Who’s complaining though? “I’m really gonna miss seeing parliamentarians nod-off in parliament,” said no-one ever.
After delivering a punch-line loaded speech that saw him claim that the ANC killed the 34 miners who died in the Marakana Massacre 2 years ago, National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise asked Malema to withdraw the statement at the request of an honourable member of parliament from the ANC. Malema’s response? “Chair, when the police reduce crime (levels) you come here (parliament) and say that the ANC has reduced crime, when the police kill people you want to say the police killed people, that’s inconsistent.” Twitter went wild. Modise asked for time to rule on the issue, Malema continued, blasting Blade Nzimande, Lindiwe Sisulu & Jacob Zuma in the process.
There were indeed many highlight during his speech, but allow me to leave you with this peach: “Mr President you must provide free quality education up until the tertiary level,” later continuing, “Mr President, you cannot celebrate the two glorified high schools which are wrongly called universities in the Northern Cape & Mpumalanga because the two of them are going to take only 350 people. We need to engage in a deliberate program to send 10 000 students outside of the country to the best of the best universities because all that countries which have succeeded they (sic) took their learners to learn outside their own countries.”
Cyril Just Can’t Wait To Be King
Cyril Ramaphosa proved a like-for-like substitution for Jacob Zuma at the National Youth Day celebrations on Monday June 16 in Kimberley. Though distinctly more eloquent, timely and succinct than Zuma, Makale Ngwenya’s feature article on his speech, The Devil In The Detail breaks down his words and finds that he didn’t really offer anything unique in tone & intent as far as the ruling party’s outlook on Youth Unemplopyment goes. Nor did Cyril hint – importantly – at better things to come should he become president of South Africa in 2019, as is largely expected.
Your thoughts Ramaphosa’s speech? Check out more on his 40-minute here & here.
We Don’t Need No (lies about our) Education!
Eish. The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published the results of a global ‘study’ they conducted that ranked South Africa 148th out of 148 countries on the quality of our Science & Maths education. The significant number of sensational reports it resulted in and the Twitter explosion it caused were just about the closest thing it was to mathematical or scientific thing about it. Days after it was published, it emerged that the study was conducted without the use of science or math at all. Salt? the methodology used to come was by ringing up 47 South African business executives. Science b#tch. Much like the WEF study results were , Mamaila Mamaili interrogates our attitude toward our education challenges & whether or not we’re having the right coversation. Should we be focussing so much attention on the 30% pass mark when we face a schooling system that is under-resourced and without enough quality teachers? How do we fix it?
Read up on this & more in Mamaila Mamaili’s feature article: LET THE 30% ISSUE REST.
Young & Free Indeed
The comparison of present-day youth with the June 16 generation is as commonplace when Youth Day comes around each year as is the winter that often engulfs the national holiday. Rofhiwa H. Maneta pens a poetic, critical, spell-binding feature on the identity issues that are inherent to the context of contemporary South African society in his wonder piece: YOUNG & FREE.
Check it out! 🙂
Julius Malema, Rofhiwa Maneta, Mamaili Mamaila & Makale Ngwenya are just four of the many young people that have this week underscored how critical the expressive, contentious, fearless worldview of South African youth remains to the still evolving economic, political & social dynamic of democratic South Africa.
That’s the “LATEST WITH MOLEFI” special Youth Day feature.
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