On the sharply cold Thursday morning that marked Youth Day 2022 in South Africa, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation rallied together 96 organisations and hundreds of young people from across Gauteng province to host a parade rallying against the biggest issues facing the youth today.
It was a wonder to see over 1,000 people marching together towards the offices of the presidency at Pretoria’s Union Buildings, seeking to hand over a memorandum of incorporation (MOI) to representatives of the presidency and the South African Government.
Global Citizen was one of the organisations that took part in the parade, calling for the pressing needs of young people in South Africa to be urgently met.
“It was important for us as an organisation to rally behind this because more and more people are being pushed further into extreme poverty, and unless we stop this suffering, it will be felt for decades to come,” said Thato Noinyane, Senior Manager for Digital Campaigns for Southern and Eastern Africa at Global Citizen.
“Young people make up the majority of our country and the list of challenges they face on a daily basis is endless,” she continued. “I saw a heart-wrenching stat that people who earn over R48K a month are 1% of the highest earners in the country. And those who earn over R1,149 a month, earn more than half of the country. How does this not shake anyone up? And what kind of country are we leading young people into?”
The MOI, which saw contributions from all 96 organisations, called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and the South African government to step up in the fight against youth unemployment, gender-based violence, unequal education, climate change, crime, corruption, racism, discrimination, and unequal access to health care, nutrition, and basic sanitation for young people across the country.
It was fitting that the movement was put together and led by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, an organisation that was named after a relentless activist who believed in a better future for South Africa. Anti-apartheid activist and politician, Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada, was one of the eight freedom fighters jailed for life in the infamous 1964 Rivonia trial, which also resulted in the imprisonment of former president Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.
Other signatories of the MOI included the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Greenpeace Africa, Amnesty International, and Equal Education. Each organisation had the opportunity to input into the memorandum in order to further express the urgent needs of young people in the country. Global Citizen spoke to several leaders on the ground about why they took part in the movement.
Equal Education’s Hopolang Selebalo highlighted that the organisation has been working to improve basic education for young South Africans for over a decade, and that it is long overdue for the South African government to “do more” and step up.
“We’ve been running a campaign for 14 years around school infrastructure for under-resourced schools; looking at the terrible conditions that many children learn in when it comes to physical infrastructure,” Selebalo told Global Citizen.
She added: “We basically want to make sure that the government meets its constitutional duty to ensure that all learners are learning in safe conducive environments, dignified environments, enough classrooms to accommodate them, safe toilets, access to water, access to electricity, these aren’t luxuries. These are things that kids need.”
Mohammed Kassim, founder of Project Potential, which works to bridge the gap between young people dropping out of school and access to employment, told Global Citizen that they joined the parade because the struggles of the youth are the struggles of all South African citizens, and called for the government to listen to the country’s cries.
“I’m hoping for some acknowledgement that our cries for help are not going unheard,” he said, “that the government acknowledges the need for cooperation, and the need to assist civil society in addressing the gaps that the system is leaving.”
With climate action being one of the bigger demands called for under the MOI, Global Citizen spoke to Otsile Nkadimeng, lead coordinator for the Fridays for Future campaign in Gauteng, to understand more about the intersectionality between climate change and the needs of young people in South Africa.
“Children and young people, seeing as we’re going to live longer than the current adults, we’re going to see weather patterns get more and more extreme for our generation, meaning the worst of the climate crisis will be felt by us,” he said.
“We feel that climate change should be among the chief issues that we are championing in this parade, because honestly speaking, you can’t talk about having a life, you can’t talk about pursuing a career, if the planet that you live on is going to be dead, and if many of the regions you dream to live in are going to be uninhabitable due to extreme temperature rises in certain areas,” he explained.
The parade ended with Youth Activism Programme Manager for the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Ifraan Mangera handing over the MOI to four representatives of the presidency in front of Nelson Mandela’s statue at the Union Buildings. By law, the government has 14 days to respond to the requests laid out in the document.