SA is in need of an intellectual revolution

By Opinion Time of article published Jun 20, 2021

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By Monde Ndlovu

Youth Month in South Africa has reached its 45th year of reflection, and each passing year the youth of the country become more disconnected with the history and how to define their role in the present.

June 16 has, therefore, become another public holiday where elaborate speeches are given and commitments made, but little movement is seen in overhauling the economic system to benefit young people. In the words of Charlotte Maxeke, “This work is not for yourselves – kill that spirit of self, and do not live above your people but live with them. If you can rise, bring someone with you.”

A Living Legacy Little attention is given to the fact that the economic system we have inherited has not fundamentally transformed. In 1994, we achieved only political rights which removed the immoral and unjust political system of apartheid, but the remnants of its origin continue today.

Therefore, the legacy of subjugation lives in the very fabric of the economic system. Youth unemployment and youth underemployment are but a consequence of this. The battle for natural and human resources has been at the heart of the pugnacious and repugnant system of apartheid.

We, as a country, are attempting to create a new society without uprooting the system and mentality that brought about much poverty and inequality. Transformation has also become an elusive concept, not gaining much support from the youth because they see no value in the discourse of transformation.

The banking and financial system is the backbone of the economy and needs greater focus regarding transformation. According to Statistics SA’s report on 2021 Quarter one GDP performance, finance is the biggest industry. Therefore, the banking and financial sector must take centre stage in dismantling the old-order thinking.

Looking at the broad-based BEE codes, ownership, supply and enterprise development can unlock youth employment and entrepreneurship. Youth consortiums can be amalgamated in ownership transactions, and in supply and enterprise development.

The major oligopolists in the industries need to be challenged to create black banks, businesses and other financial institutions through capital investment, skills development and skills transfer. This will have a knock-on effect and cause a dent in the unemployment numbers and on the rest of the economic system, if done correctly.

These industries are the heart of the economic system and if not transformed, every effort in dealing with unemployment will be thwarted, for they touch every other industry in the economy.

The Mental Battlefield

The legacy of apartheid does not only have remnants in the economic system, but also in the minds of black people The cry of ubuntu within the black community cannot be heard by black people who do not recognise their own self-worth and talent.

Black consciousness is a necessary tool to unravel the mental chains and free black people from the self-hatred that has found residence among young black minds. Mental transformation is a subject that is not spoken of in our quest to change the status quo. This among young people is seen through the many university dropouts and the students who take many years to complete their degrees.

According to the Post-School Education and Training Monitor Report of March 2021, university dropouts and students who take long to complete their degrees are the two challenges that will undermine the country’s competitiveness. The report highlights that 6% of South African adults have degrees, a further 6% have diplomas and 3.4% hold TVET certificates.

The statistics reveal the need to reimagine and re-create the education system, and to redefine our understanding of education across the economy. The country can implore a regional approach to education and the economy, where each province focuses on its key economic drivers and align skills development accordingly.

We need an intellectual revolution, championed by young people across the country. A depoliticised agenda, free from the networks of patronage and driven by genuine African values. A new wave of leadership and commitment to the prosperity of the country. A young people who value education, not just the development of skills but who understand policy, laws and legislation.

A young people who can clearly articulate their views without fear of favour, who are ready to sacrifice their time and efforts for the upliftment of others. A young people who will practice patience with their crafts, in building themselves up to face a world that refuses to see them.

The valley of ideas must be their resting place, ever developing and shaping ideas. The black lobby groups in the country have a responsibility to create a research and development institution, that will become the key lever for the country’s developmental needs. This institution should be lobbied for and by young people within those lobby groups that carry influence and clout.

The government, together with the private sector, should be lobbied to resource the institution, for it can become not only South Africa’s pride, but the continent’s heartbeat of hope, underpinned by progressive ideas.

*Monde Ndlovu is Head of Advocacy and Thought Leadership at the Black Management Forum.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.

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