Gauteng Legislature Convenes Virtual Youth Sector Parliament

On June 23, 2021, the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) convened a Virtual Sector Parliament, a public platform for young people in the province to debate and recommend their own solutions to the socio-economic challenges they face.

Through the Youth Sector Parliament, 45 youth engaged directly with Gauteng’s executive and decision-makers, representing their peers from five regions of Gauteng. Debates and focused on innovative service delivery initiatives involving young people themselves.

As Gauteng and the country grapple with skyrocketing youth unemployment, violence against women, economic exclusion and Covid-19, this platform has provided GPL with an opportunity to engage resolutely with young people to solicit their recommendations on how to remedy it.

About 150 young people from across the province were mobilized in regional workshops and were part of the audience. The session was open to the media and the general public.

The webinar began with a silent prayer, followed by the singing of the national anthem. The members and various dignitaries were then recognized and the main points of the debate were outlined.

It was promised that the results of the session would be held and tabled by the portfolio committee, and the resolutions tabled in the provincial legislature. Resolutions taken will be addressed by Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi; “We put our heads on the block,” said Matome Chiloane, chairman of the education commission. Young people will be kept informed and involved, he promised.

A keynote speech was then given by Lesufi, who said that 125,000 health workers in Gauteng had been vaccinated to protect young people. He explained how the pandemic and the lockdown impacted Gauteng, which is small but has a large population, and is the epicenter of the third wave. He expressed his condolences to the families who suffered the deaths and said the health sector is under immense pressure; the legislature must be reviewed to ensure that all institutions can best adapt to the pandemic.

Young people are significantly less likely to contract Covid-19 and experience side effects; they are less at risk and are resistant enough to fight it. But children still need to be protected, especially since mutations in the virus still occur. Identifying hot spots is essential in the fight against the pandemic. The pandemic has also brought to light the “big black cloud” of gender-based violence (GBV), which is a “stain on the conscience of the nation”. The GPL “will spare no effort” to eradicate GBV, Lesufi said.

He then explained how young people should be part of the economy and how education plays a vital role in this regard. The GPL contributes to this with its scholarship program; there are also several programs in place to improve the skills of young people in Gauteng and provide them with work experience. “This country belongs to the youth.

Youth unemployment

The Honorable Rhulani Baloyi of Winterveld opened her fiery speech on the challenges of young people facing health services by telling MEC: “We don’t need more lockdowns, we need jobs and services”. During the lockdown, several essential services were suspended; HIV testing has been suspended, abortion services have been suspended, and family planning services have been suspended. He said there is still huge discrimination against the LGBTIQ + community when it comes to health services. He added that young people are depressed because they are not working, but if they go to clinics with symptoms of depression, they are “the laughing stock”.

Baloyi asked, what can we do with the R350 grant? Things are much more expensive now than in 2015. There are long lines in clinics and hospitals, and disinfection is carried out by security guards; we need youth health ambassadors. He said there was ineffective social media engagement from the Department of Health and MEC.

Next, the Honorable Noluvuyo Mogale, who advised the government to look at traditional African methods of treating Covid-19; science does not have all the answers to Africa’s problems. She said youth employment was not at the heart of the Department of Health’s response to Covid-19. She said the effects of the foreclosure will impact young people in the long run; that the R350 distress allowance was insufficient; and that temporary jobs are not efficient. Since the vaccine does not reach enough people, the virus will be with us for a very long time.

The presidential initiative for youth employment employed 300,000 young people, but only for a few months; “we can only hope, plead and pray” for contracts to be extended. The youth unemployment rate “is a pandemic in itself”. We need permanent and visible positions. Why are provincial and national governments not investing in youth, the future of the country? Many young people were excluded from the distress scholarship and only 10 people were assigned to oversee the qualification process, Mogale said.

Hon. Andile Ramokgwatedi said that the young people of the province have solutions to the challenges of the health department; above all, it must prioritize youth employment, through an action plan. National and provincial departments should coordinate their efforts in this regard.

Hon. Mbali Maseko said that with every challenge comes an opportunity. If the money set aside for young people does not reach them, “we are creating fertile ground for a youth revolution.” Young people cannot eat our speeches; we need to create action plans that will have results in the lives of young people. Young people are not looking for handouts; they want to serve. Covid-19 is deadly, but “the only pandemic that will cause a revolution is poverty”.

The audience having asked no questions, the meeting proceeded to the adoption of this part of the report. It was approved unanimously.

GBV

The second order concerned the health department’s strategies on GBV and young people during the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. GBV has been described as “the second worst pandemic in the country”; many children have been affected. Strong interventions are needed and facilities must be made available to victims of GBV.

The Honorable Lebogang Tshomo quoted Charlotte Maxeke to start her speech, and it said that GBV, femicide and rape have their roots in patriarchy. Young boys must learn not to rape. Many women are abused but cannot speak out because they are dependent on their abusers. Many abused women are unaware of the support available to them; information must be better shared.

Hon. Abraham Mabelane said GBV is a deep problem in South Africa. There are many forms of violence against women and girls; the statistics are appalling. If your child talks about abuse, you need to take it seriously. There are many programs that help people who are abused.

Hon. Tumi Motumi pointed out that the government is not doing enough to change violent men; instead, the money is spent to help those they mistreat.

Hon. Tseko Sebitla said that many children are affected by GBV at a very young age and that programs need to be in place to help them; we have to support the programs that already exist. The child is the responsibility of the community, not just the family; community support forums should be encouraged. With the right support, these children can heal.

No questions were raised on this order of the report, which was adopted unanimously.

Skills development strategies

The third order concerned the debate on the skills development strategies of the government approach to young people in order to fight unemployment.

Hon. Luyando Ndaba said that the education system must be aligned with the needs of the country; many think it is obsolete. What can be done to prevent young people from dropping out? The private sector must participate in upgrading the skills of young people. Corruption can be one of the causes of unemployment: if you don’t know anyone in the system, you don’t get a job. Young people are encouraged to open small businesses, but many have been forced to close due to foreclosure level five.

Hon. Kabelo Khoali said that we cannot solve the unemployment problem without looking at its historical nature; colonial history still weighs on us today. The school curriculum prefers black children to be laborers. The economy belongs to a few white families; radical economic transformation must be implemented immediately. The economy must be placed in the hands of the people. Public entities are meant to be platforms for economic transformation.

Hon. N Sindane said that many children are not qualified for higher education, but we are entering a technological age which requires specialized skills. If we look at the matrix results, we see that more than 50% of young people are lost at the end of their schooling, and do not have the skills required for today’s economy.

Hon. P Mthimunye said it is a “miserable experience” to be a young person in South Africa today. It is because of our bad upbringing. Gauteng’s economy has grown only 1% in recent years, well below the immigration rate; imports are greater than exports. The province is also plagued by drug addiction among young people.

Hon. David Magate said the statistics for youth unemployment are “staggering”. To solve this problem, the young person has to volunteer to gain experience. Local economies must be exploited, especially the township economy, in the same way foreigners exploited the spaza economy; suppliers for spazas must be found in the townships.

This part of the report is also adopted, seconded and approved unanimously.

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