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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les jeunes Sud-Africains dans l’attente de changements

by Gaël De Santis

Young South Africans Expect Change

Translated Friday 24 December 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

The World Festival of Youth and Students ended yesterday in Pretoria. Among the participants, the young people of the host country are beset by unemployment, and 18 months after President Zuma’s election, are impatient for their situation to change.

Pretoria, from our special correspondent.

Young South Africans are rather impatient, whether they sing in small groups on the paths or they attend the debates at the World Festival of Youth and Students (the WFYS, which brings together progressive and national liberation organizations), which ended in Pretoria yesterday with a march bearing an appeal to the head of state. “Nothing has changed” since Jacob Zuma was elected president in April 2009, is the worried comment made by Ernest, a member of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), the youth organization of the ruling party in South Africa.

All those who came to the debates or to meet the 15,000 delegates from 115 nations are worried about two problems: unemployment and drug use. “They don’t have anything to do all day long, so they smoke all the time,” Ernest pointed out. South Africa is confronted with a 25.2% unemployment rate. Three-quarters of the unemployed are young people; there are 6.2 million jobless youth.

A continual struggle for the system of education.

Education is another persistent problem. “The system of education does not help us,” is the concern expressed by Derick, a member of the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA). Although he comes from a rural area, he is expected to hand in his exam papers using a computer that he has not got. “You have to turn in your exam in English and not in your native language.” Moreover, the university system is not adapted to the job market. Ntsikelelo, a member of ANCYL, states that “the former white schools are still the ones that have the best results.”

Ntsikelelo, who studied accounting, whose smile matches his age – 20 – and who speaks six of the languages spoken in South Africa, says that “the struggle for education continues” in order to put an end to the Bantu education that was the apartheid regime’s hallmark. “There is still a gap among young people. The whites get better counseling.”

These are some of the worries which propelled Jacob Zuma first to the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) in 2007, and then to the presidency. “Our country is riven by political contradictions,” comments Derick, the young communist. “There were social policies with Dr. Nelson Mandela, but the following president, comrade Thabo Mbeki, adopted purely capitalist policies. With comrade Jacob Zuma, who is not a communist but whom we influence, the country is going further to the left.” As proof, “the abolition of primary school enrollment fees, the distribution of sanitary napkins for women, and care for those who cannot afford it.”

An anti-poverty strategy.

Nevertheless, impatience reigns among a certain number of ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP) rank-and-filers. “As young communists, we want changes so that youth will no longer be hit by the twin scourges of drug abuse and unemployment,” Steven said. “We want an anti-poverty strategy. The government’s problem is not what it says, but the realization of its policies,” the young communist warned, who no longer has any desire to vote ANC. At their congress in mid-December, “the young communists demanded that their party henceforth run alone in the elections,” and not on the ANC list, Derick said. A move that the SACP continues to refuse, as it would end the tripartite alliance of the ANC, the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

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