This year marks 41 years since the June 16 1976 Soweto uprising by the youth of that time. The president led this year’s national commemoration in JB Marks’s town Ventersdrop. Marks’s remains were fetched from Russia and reburied in the country two years ago. The event was attended by North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa.
Accompanied by the Minister and the premier, the President had earlier received a warm welcome as the crowd, mostly made of school children dressed in their school uniforms waved as he walked into the venue. As the president started delivering his Youth Day address at the Tshing sports grounds in North West on Friday under heavy armed police guard, a scuffle broke and some people in the crowd started to chant “Zuma Must Fall.” The security quickly removed the crowd out of the hall, soon after that another group started to shout at the President and they were also removed by security. Zuma appeared irritated by all the rejection and the students who listened to him restlessly as they started talking among themselves and with some leaving half way through the President’s speech.
The disruptions did little to stop the President’s address. After pausing for a moment he carried on with his speech. He addressed the issue of high rates of HIV as the biggest challenge the youth is facing along with unemployment and poverty.
In his speech, the President urged young people to use opportunities offered by the government to better their own situations by becoming entrepreneurs and to create job opportunities. He mentioned programs such as Expanded public Works Programme (EPWP), War on Leaks, National Rural Youth Service Corps(NARYSEC) and other programs as examples of the work that the government has been doing to empower the youth and to promote youth development. Zuma also emphasised that the government is doing its best to empower the youth by creating job opportunities, training and funding support through the Nation Youth Development Agency (NYDA). According to the President “The NYDA has positively responded to the call of young people in all branches and it will be equipped with free wifi services to provide young people with access to technology. It will prioritise education and the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship supports 500 students annually”. He stated that the office of the Deputy Minister in the Presidency led by Buti Manamela will monitor all government’s programmes that focus on youth development.
According to reports the event was expected to have 2000 attendees. Some young people were pleased by the President’s address and were happy to get the opportunity to meet the President while some continued to protest outside as Zuma addressed his audience.