Where did it all go wrong for the young people of SA

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The positive changes brought in after liberation in1994 now seem to be overshadowed by the bad and ugly, writes Joy Nonzukiso Peter.

The mood of April 27 1994 will remain etched in my memory for the rest of my life. I still remember how the day served as a beacon of hope for the small town of Jeffreys Bay, where my mom was a school principal.

Having partly grown up in Afrikaner-dominated towns I directly experienced the negative effects of apartheid.

I grew up with only one vision: to never allow anyone to oppress me in any way. Freedom from any form of oppression remains my ultimate goal and it is a virtue with which I aspire to influence my sphere of contact.

Although I was not old enough to vote, April 271994 was a huge deal to my young self. For me, voting meant that no policemen would ever barge into my house unannounced again, and, after swimming, I could freely shower in the "whites only" public bathrooms at the beach and my mom - who always insisted we use the "whites only" toilets and showers - would no longer fight with the white policemen. Eventually a trip to the beach would be a fun-filled family outing.

As I grew up and acquired additional knowledge and information about the history of apartheid and the liberation Struggle, I started to fully appreciate what our Struggle heroes and individuals such as my mom did to liberate the country from the chains of apartheid. I'm sure, had I been old enough, I would have done the same. I know I would have been in the forefront of the liberation movement.

I remember the excitement that filled my home when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president. I knew things could only get better and my children would never experience what I went through. At last, we were living in a free country, one filled with hope and freedom.

Upon graduating from Rhodes University, I had no doubt in my mind that I was destined for the city of gold. South Africa was full of hope and it would have been dimwitted of me not to seize the boundless opportunities provided by our democratic government.

It was obvious that the sky was a starting point for me and the millions of my peers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. We were ready to move forward and contribute to making our country great.

I do believe that's still the feeling among us, despite the doom and gloom we are bombarded with daily.

In my young working life, I have been fortunate enough to visit other countries and each time I'd come back, I'd be more convinced that I was the citizen of a great country. I didn't want to be anywhere else but home. I wanted to give back to the country that had afforded me enormous opportunities, especially freedom. Even when many of the people I knew emigrated to countries such as the UK and US, I wasn't in the least bit interested. I felt things couldn't have been greener for me in South Africa. My career in PR/ media and communications was at its peak and I was convinced it could only reach greater heights.

After a few years in the private sector, I yearned to make a positive contribution in the public sector. Even when my job applications were unsuccessful, I wasn't discouraged. I guess I was in denial of the stark reality. A friend of mine once joked about my commendable persistence, but added that I'd "never get a job in the ANC government because I am not politically connected". But I am black, young, educated, and I am from a previously disadvantaged background, I thought to myself. Is that the true nature of my government? Impossible. How did we get here? What happened? Is it greed? What happened to the idea of unity and 'A Good Life For All"? This is definitely not the reality my teen mind could even have imagined back in 1994.

I remain baffled by the contrast between skills and political connectedness. Why should I be politically connected when I qualify for a position, have the necessary experience and so forth? Why are people not employed on merit?

In the past five years or so, it has become clear to me that I am living in a confusing country - one that provides very few answers and solutions to its people, especially the young people. I use the word confusing because things haven't always been so bleak for young South Africans. Where did it all go wrong?

It is such discussions that take place among bewildered young people on various media platforms. We're slowly losing hope in the government we pinned all our hopes on and it is heartbreaking. Could it be that we're a bunch of impatient youngsters?

I'm confused, but sometimes 19 years feels like a decent period of time for our government to have convinced us. On the contrary, I think we've been left even more desperate for change.

Please note: we are in no way blind to the number of positive changes the government has implemented. But the good seems to be overshadowed by the bad (and the ugly), by the report of rampant mismanagement, nepotism, corruption, lack of accountability and so much more. The levels of crime and the slump in the quality of education are enough to send us packing, but because some of us love our country so much, we'd rather find solutions. As young people of South Africa, we are disheartened by the way things have turned out for us.

As I type, I and millions of young and qualified South Africans are unemployed and not only do we need solutions urgently, we need answers. If our government cannot provide us with answers, on simple yet important issues, what are the chances of creating enough jobs to curb youth unemployment? What is happening is a sad reality. We don't want to sound pessimistic but at what stage is it permissible for us to say enough is enough?

My appeal to President Jacob Zuma is that he intervene urgently. We need to know that we have a president and a government we can fully trust to provide us with a better life. Otherwise, we'll sadly be left with no choice but to seek answers elsewhere and associate ourselves with a political party we can fully rely on. South Africa is dear to us and so is our future and that of the country. Things have to change.

Written by: Joy Nonzukiso Peter

Picture credit: Cape Argus

  • Joy Nonzukiso Peter trained as a journalist and has worked in communications and media management. This article was published on Cape Argus.


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