House Chairperson, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Honourable Members.

 

This debate is taking place as we celebrate the centenary year of two of our icons, Tata Madiba and Mama Sisulu.  As the youth of this country embark on the task of fulfilling their generational mission, they stand on the shoulders of these two giants.  In their own way, these two icons of our struggle for a better and inclusive South Africa fought hard to ensure that there was hope amongst our people, so that, Honourable Bucwa, "tomorrow will be better than today" at a time when it did not seem possible, hence today we live in a South Africa Alive with possibilities.

 

Ours is a country that has a difficult past which continues to weigh heavily on the majority of our people, especially the youth.  This is evidenced by the high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality.  Despite these challenges, the youth of our country are defying the odds.  The youth are saying to all of us, "don't give me a hand‑out, give me a hand-up".

 

The ANC-led government has responded positively to this call by young people.  This is because as government we see the growing youth population as a "demographic dividend", meaning that the growing numbers of working-age adults can only strengthen our resolve to become a developmental state.

 

Honourable Chairperson, it is for this reason that we have expanded our training and skills development facilities, to ensure that a larger proportion of our youth are capacitated to be economically active.  The Department of Basic Education has introduced no-fee schools, scholar transport and nutrition, which has contributed to improving the primary education access level to more than 99%.  We have also increased our focus on improving the employment chances of school leavers, so that we have increased the number of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, and TVET enrollments have been increasing at an average of 23% per annum since 2010.  Last year alone, 21 188 artisans were trained, as reported by the Department of Higher Education and Training.  At this rate, TVET enrollments are on track to reach the NDP target of 2.5 million.

 

Last year, young people across the country stood firm in their demand for increased access to higher education and pushed for barriers to be broken down.  Again, the ANC-led government responded positively.  Today, young people from poor households who qualify to enter university but cannot afford to have been provided with access to fee-free education, and this is to the value of R57 billion.  As Che Guevara put it, "The walls of the educational system must come down.  Education should not be a privilege, so that the children of those who have money can study".

 

The increased access to undergraduate studies will be coupled with increased funding for postgraduate studies.  Through the postgraduate funding programmes provided by the National Research Foundation (NRF), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and South African National Space Agency (SANSA), we have seen an increase in the number of children from poor backgrounds escaping the cycle of poverty – not only by becoming the first graduates in their families, but by being supported to complete master's and doctoral studies in scarce skills areas.

 

Honourable Members, when I visited the SANSA facilities in Hermanus recently, I listened to three young women physicists, Ms Mpho Tshisaphungo, Dr Rendani Nndanganeni and Dr Tshimangadzo Matamba, who come from rural areas of Limpopo, explaining to me the wonderful work they are doing around space weather.  These three young women are not an exception.  I was also mesmerised by a team of young engineers who did an outstanding job building the ZACUBE-2 microsatellite which we have sent off to be launched in the month of June in India.  The satellite will help us monitor veld fires to ensure quick responses and will also help us to monitor ocean traffic, thereby contributing to the oceans economy.  These young people are testament to the fact that South Africa is alive with possibilities.

 

As we enter the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we want young people to be the leading thinkers in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, developing cyber-physical systems and leading the analysis of big data.  In this regard we are proud of the work in data science done by a team of bright young engineers at the CSIR. Led by Dr Vukosi Marivate, they are using artificial intelligence techniques to extract useful information from data in application areas such as safety and security.  This demonstrates that we are preparing our young people for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

 

Despite the many challenges that our country is facing, the youth of today are the most educated ever, they are the healthiest sector of our population, they have embraced technology to become the most technology-savvy generation, and they are energetic and very ambitious.  The question that arises is, what has the ANC-led government done to respond to the varied social and economic expectations of the growing number of young men and women in our country?

 

Honourable Members, since the dawn of democracy there has been a growing number of middle-class young people, thanks to the conscious policies of our government that have expanded economic opportunities for the African child.  I must emphasise, however, that the black middle class still faces the challenge of access to opportunities for growth and development.

 

We have seen a growing number of young people who have decided to start their own businesses, and as the government we have created policies and initiatives to support these young people.  These are the young people who are saying, "don't give me a hand-out, give me a hand-up".  In recognition of the importance of these young entrepreneurs, the ANC-led government has created the Department of Small Business Development.  The Small Enterprise Finance Agency has, since its establishment, supported over 286 000 SMMEs and cooperatives to the value of R5.5 billion, and facilitated the creation of 312 235 formal and informal sector jobs.  The majority of the beneficiaries of these initiatives are young people.

 

Government has also created space and facilities for young entrepreneurs in the ICT sector to take advantage of the mobile application economy. Through the MLab initiative, young people in the townships are provided with the opportunity to gain highly sought after coding skills.

 

Recognising the need to address the challenge of youth unemployment, President Ramaphosa has launched the YES initiative as part of the Thuma Mina campaign.  In partnership with the private sector, the YES initiative is aimed at creating employment opportunities for young people so that they too can be part of the new dawn.  Through initiatives such as this one, young people in Mdantsane, Khayelitsha, Tsakane, Diepsloot and other townships and rural areas will also have the opportunity to be economically active.

 

Dealing with the issue of youth unemployment in a sustainable way requires deliberate and long-term investment, and that is what this government is focused on.  President Ramaphosa has been saying in his media interviews recently that the issue of growing the economy and eradicating unemployment, especially amongst the young, is his key priority.  This is one of the areas in which we must all heed the call and say "Thuma Mina" to help resolve the challenge of youth unemployment through partnerships.  We need all sectors of our society to work with us as the government to protect the future of this country.

 

A young woman who is listening today may be saying, I too want to believe that South Africa is alive with possibilities, but how will I be able to pursue my aspirations while I am likely to be killed by the person I love?  How do I believe that there is a brighter future for me whilst I am being violated physically, sexually, verbally and emotionally? Honourable Members, cases of femicide and violence against women and girls are on the rise, and all of us need to stand together in defence of young women in our country.

 

MaAfrika Borwa amatle re a le kgopela, tlogelang go hlekefetša bana ba borena.  Batswadi a re tlogele go tšireletša bao ba betago, le go betha ba bangwe ka magayeng a rena.

 

Ngoba labo abahlukumesa abesfasane, homalome,hobuti bethu, homakhelwane, siyabaza, kodwa siyabavigela.  Age sithi ku leyokuhlukunywezwa kosfazane kakhulu amantwa ba mantombazane sonke sithi kwanele.

 

I want to say to this young woman today, Yes, South Africa is Alive with possibilities, because the Minister of Police last week announced the appointment of a new head of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation, the Hawks, bringing new hope for the police system of this country.  The new head has committed to stabilising and prioritising a quality investigative team that will ensure cases are not thrown out of court.

 

The Department of Justice working together with our judiciary is committed to ensuring that perpetrators not only get prosecuted but receive harsh sentences, as we have witnessed with the sentencing of Sandile Mantsoe to 25 years for killing Karabo Mokoena.

 

Yes, this is a country alive with possibilities, a country from which a young man called Trevor Noah, who now hosts a popular international comedy show, comes.   It is the same country from which Caster Semenya, an 800m world champion, hails.  It is a country that honours its youth, hence Siyabulela Xuza was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe in Silver for his contribution to scientific innovation – this is a young person with a planet named after him.

 

Honourable Members, this is a country alive with possibilities for young people to thrive despite the colour of their skin, their creed, their sexual orientation or their current social status.

 

Honourable Members, let me leave you with this quote by Kwame Nkrumah:  "Those who would judge us merely by the heights we have achieved would do well to remember the depths from which we started."

 

I thank you.