South Africa’s future is in good hands, President Jacob Zuma said as he joined Britain’s Prince Edward in recognising the achievements of 130 young people from across the country at the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment ceremony in Cape Town on Thursday night.
Presenting the awards at the Table Bay Hotel together with Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, and Sophie Rhys-Jones, the Countess of Wessex, Zuma paid tribute to Mandela, the awards’ founding patron-in-chief, who passed the role on to him in 2010.
The awards form part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award programme, which takes place in 144 countries.
Zuma praised the 300 award recipients and 1 500 youngsters from schools, community youth groups and correctional centres that took part in the awards programme through various projects – including a pre-school literacy project in the Eastern Cape, a clothing project for those in need in the Western Cape, and a desk refurbishing project for a needy school in Gauteng.
“We always say that the youth are the future of our country, but it takes coming to an event like this and to see the determination to succeed and to contribute to building the country, that we become convinced that indeed, this country will be in good hands.”
Zuma was encouraged to hear about the joint collaborative projects that the youth are involved in through the programme.
“In fact, we are particularly pleased by the participation of youth from correctional centres, as our view is that their lives must change for the better,” Zuma said, pointing out that the introduction of the award programme in correctional centres was Mandela’s initiative.
He said he was also encouraged to learn that, as part of the awards’ 30th anniversary year, three regional workshops were held with the support of Brand South Africa, the National Youth Development Agency and the Department of Arts and Culture.
Part of each workshop involved award participants being informed about the National Development Plan (NDP) and how they, as young people, could help to realise the plan’s Vision 2030.
“We want the youth to own the NDP and to be part of its implementation, as it is designed to make this country a better place for them.”
Zuma added that the awards programme played an important role in promoting relations between South Africa and the UK.
Last month, during the 10th session of the SA-UK Bilateral Forum, a youth empowerment dialogue was held to discuss youth employment, skills and entrepreneurship.
South Africa and the UK both recognised that, in tackling social transformation, it was crucial to create “platforms in which youth development in all its forms can thrive and translate into meaningful contributions to the economy”, Zuma said.
Jason Caldicott, a prison inmate and drug addict who joined the Presidents Awards programme and took part in making a film and in various community projects, said the programme had helped change his perspective on life, such that he was “ready to contribute to a better South Africa”.