Young people, develop yourselves: Mbeki


17 June 2008

Young South Africans can honour the memories of the fallen victims of South Africa’s democratic revolution by focusing on education and personal skills development, says President Thabo Mbeki.

The President was speaking at Youth Day celebrations at the University of the Western Cape on Monday, where hundreds of young men and women gathered to honour the students of 1976 who paved the way for democracy in South Africa.

“Whereas the youth of 1976 went into exile to train as soldiers of liberation, the youth of today should go to school and college or university to acquire the skills they would use for their advancement and the development of our country and continent,” Mbeki said.

The country needed good role models, he said, such as people who worked with communities and helped to improve their neighbourhoods.

Traditional values such as respect for the elderly and the disabled were needed today as much as the fervour for change was needed in the days before 1994, the President said.

Mbeki also reminded the students of their peers who were working in the South African National Defence Force on peacekeeping missions in other parts of Africa, saying they were making a vital contribution to the country and the continent.

Thousands of South Africa’s young people have served and continue to serve as peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sudan and other conflict zones.

Mbeki called all youth formations and the government’s social partners – business, labour and civil society – to enter into a wider development plan that would situate South Africa’s younger citizens as a central element.

Former President Nelson Mandela also delivered a message, via video link-up, in which he said that young South Africans should make good use of the reward of democracy and “not lose sight of our dream”.

All South Africans, young people included, should “continue to promote the principle of relentless freedom and democracy”, Mandela said.