TWENTY ONE GUN SALUTE TO (A) FALLEN SOLDIER(S)
Last year around this time the community of Bushbuckridge gathered at Sabie to bury Michael Brenton Thabo "Nyakza" Matsane. He died after a long illness just two weeks before the much hyped 30th commemoration of the youth uprising that ushered in a new chapter in South Africa's struggle for liberation. Thabo was barely 30 but he had already contributed tremendously to community development. When his death was fresh and those who used him as cannon fodder still felt fresh guilt there was talk that some few landmark structures might be named after him, deservedly so. He had volunteered for Umsobomvu Youth Fund for some time, worked on the government's Extended Public Works Programmes, been an assistant to a Consulting Engineer doing community work and touched a lot of hearts in his short prolific life both as a member of the ruling African National Congress and the Young Communist League.
Thabo left behind a legacy of both recklessness and self-sacrifice. Some people will remember him for his alcohol binges while some will testify about his intellect and deep probing of class issues. They will vouch about his contribution to the National Democratic Revolution and his shrewdness that saw him rise and fall within the hostile political climate that characterises the politics of Bushbuckridge, especially Shatale. Thabo was not an angel and was far from a saint.
That he passed away shortly before Youth Day, a day he looked forward to commemorating in a way he knew how should make young people today sit back and wonder whether they are really utilising the short time some of us actually have or not. In the event of them dying at a young age, what will be their legacy? The South African model of two complementary economies should provide a buy-in for young people to tap in and unleash their energies in a rewarding environment that is an oyster for progressive independent thinkers, the first and second economies.
The youth of 1976 laid a solid foundation whereby today's young people can start building. There was no Affirmative Action or Black Economic Empowerment in those dark days of John Vorster but rather job reservation for white youth. There were no voluntary services where young people could acquire skills as made available through learnerships and apprentices then but compulsory military conscription for white youth. You can then say the apartheid state always took care of its young people even though at most times it exposed them to danger and death. It raised them on a philosophy of hate and white supremacy which makes it hard for them to understand why they today have to be security guards and receptionists while the young black person is the executive or director-general.
It has been said that young people today are not thankful of what the democratic state has done for them. They stopped short of saying young people today are not organised because they believe they were born to be great. Only the born-free can claim that heritage and not anyone who was at least ten years old in 1994. For white youth, apartheid was a universal crime and whoever took part in its realisation remains a fugitive.
However the lack of direction amongst young people today can also be attributed to lack of political leadership that is aimed at channelling the youth into positive roles. Young people have recently been used as cannon fodder to reach broader political goals they are not even familiar with. The presence of many young people outside the courtroom when former deputy president Jacob Zuma was tried first for rape and then for corruption indicated their need to be considered on issues of national discourse. The African National Congress Youth League was seen rallying them to support Umsholozi. However, what has it done for them since JZ walked free out of court? It is important for youth formations like Pan Africanist Youth Congress (PAYCO), Young Communist League (YCL) Azanian Youth Organisation (AZAYO), Inkatha Youth Brigade (IYB) and the ANCYL to understand that young people are here all year round, facing problems with accessing student funding and bank loans throughout the year, not only on June 16 or when they are needed to fill stadiums to indicate the power of these youth movements. To a larger extent these organisations have dismally failed young people.
One commentator argued that if these organisations can be visible everytime they are electing the Student Representative Council at tertiary why can't they be present when the students are protesting against high fees, withheld results and lack of funding? Why should the ANCYL be visible to condemn Judge Hilary Squires as a racist while it is not doing the same when a young person is sentenced to a long jail term by an equally 'racist' judge? Who is the ANCYL serving, the rich over-fifty-year old Indian businessman or the poor under-35-year olds?
The youth of today are indeed not thankful of the blood that was shed to help them live in a democracy full of choices. They worship technology as if God was a Playstation 2 or DVD Player. They don't take advantage of the simplicity of registering their own companies with CIPRO, registering on the government supplier database and accessing government work. They complain that the tender issuing process is corrupt and you need political connection to procure for government. But who said there was only government to procure for? Why should a young person start a company with the sole purpose of procuring for government? Where is the enterpreneur spirit that should say to young people they can do work with Anglo-American or South African Airways without going through government redtape.
Simply put, today's youth are lazy and a disgrace to their parents and teachers. They are everything the '76 generation was not. They drink, do drugs and have sex without condoms which has been found as one of the reasons why AIDS is prevalent in their age group. They are filling prisons or are on parole because they argue that there is no employment. There is no employment but work, stupid. Go out and work and forget being employed. However, what is equated to self-hate is that they are choosy, they steal from their own and even rape their grandmothers.
In remembering 31 years of youth sacrifice all they need to do is to make sure that structures like Youth Development Trust (YDT), Youth Commission, UYF, Youth Desks and youth movements work for them. They need to take control of all these agencies and political formations, to give them directions. Thabo was that kind of a young person. He was aware that the attitude of government is that we should not leave our children a legacy of poverty. Young people must start working, even if not for themselves, for the next generation and as a way of saying to the '76 Generation, "never before was so much owed by so many to so few"