16/06/2018 09:09 SAST | Updated 16/06/2018 09:09 SAST

HuffPost: This Is What Youth Day Means To Us

'We aren’t where we should be, but we’re much closer than we were a year ago. And certainly much better off than in 1976.'

Gianluigi Guercia/ AFP/ Getty Images

Pieter du Toit, editor-in-chief

This week the reality of state capture started to bite as Eskom instituted load-shedding amid a strike by angry unions that sought to disrupt the country's electricity supply.

It came shortly after the steep rise in the price of fuel, which will add to inflationary pressure and lead to thinner wallets for all of us: less money to spend on food, entertainment and basic commodities such as school clothes and transport.

And all of this while race has been returned to the front and centre position in society after the departure of Jacob Zuma from the presidency. EFF leader Julius Malema kept up his party's policy of race-baiting this week by saying he hasn't called for the slaughter of white people "yet".

So our state is still suffering from the Zuma hangover, we're all getting poorer and it seems many of us are needlessly snapping at each other.

But even though Youth Day 2018 might not be the cracker of a day the fathers and mothers of our democracy wanted it to be — a day of celebrating the youth, its mobility and its prospects — it's certainly not a patch on the state of the country in 1976.

Back then South Africa was in the iron grip of apartheid prime minister John Vorster, who ruthlessly used state apparatus to subjugate the majority of the population and keep a measure of order. The Nationalist government had by then succeeded in breaking the ANC by banning the party and its sister organisations, while the Rivonia trialists had been incarcerated for 12 years.

But the apartheid edifice was cracking: Vorster and his fellow ideologues weren't sure exactly how to proceed with their grand "separate but equal" project and the resistance had by then started to multiply on the streets.

This year won't be stellar, but we've started to emerge from the wasted decade under Jacob Zuma. We aren't where we should be, but we're much closer than we were a year ago. And certainly much better off than in 1976.

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Youth Day commemorates the Soweto Uprising of June 16 1976. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Canny Maphanga, video journalist

Youth Day in 2018 sadly means little or nothing to a young black woman in South Africa. This promise of a renewed South Africa is nothing but a figment of society's wild imagination.

We were told education is the tool for success and a means to break the chains of poverty within our black community. We were even under this pretence that post-1994 would provide us with access to a world of opportunities.

I used to watch people work for more than 20 years and remain in the same position, and I would boldly claim how my work ethic would propel me into a secure lifestyle. However, I was truly humbled to learn that this is not how life works. In April 2016, I obtained my Bachelor of Arts. My naive 22-year-old self was thinking the world was my oyster in this glorified "rainbow nation", but little did I know that real life challenges were only just beginning and this uhuru that was fought for was in vain.

The most difficult reality to comprehend in South Africa is that factors beyond my control can deny me prosperity. I am a young woman and most importantly, I am black living in a patriarchal society. This is not to be pessimistic, but the odds are unfortunately against me even before I attempt to put my foot in the door.

More than 20 years into our democracy and this country's socioeconomic status remains roughly the same, except for the few elites who made it into the VIP club of blue lights. My personal lived experiences confirm this undisputable fact, from working in exploitative conditions and being undermined in the workspace to working twice as hard as mediocre counterparts and having absolutely nothing to show for it. So, I ask:

What is it that we must celebrate as the youth, in a country that continues to fail us, with no guarantee of a valuable future?

Mujahid Safodien/ AFP/ Getty Images

Riaan Grobler, news editor

The South Africa I grew up in during the 1980s and 1990s is vastly different than the one my son is growing up in today. And yet it is also scarily similar.

When I was a kid, an everyday activity at school was the "emergency drill", in case "the terrorists" came for us. The terrorists, of course, being the "swart gevaar". We were made to hide under our desks or flee — in orderly rows, of course — to the rugby field, where the army or police would come to our aid. We knew what pipe bombs and landmines looked like, in case these terrorists decided to blow us up.

We were sheltered and privileged; our nation's white youth — tomorrow's leaders. We were constantly being reminded to be studious and work hard. "One day, you won't be as privileged," they would tell us. "On the other side of town, in the location, there are black kids working harder than you. The day will come when your white skin won't be your saving grace."

A friend of mine recently pointed out the irony in that rhetoric. As kids, we were constantly reminded how "privileged" we were to be white, and yet it's unusual today to find a white person who is willing to acknowledge their privilege.

Many things have changed since my childhood. We have made some progress, yes.

But what has remained the same is that young people in South Africa today are in many cases the products and/or victims of historical privilege and disadvantage.

Having equal opportunities is one thing. Having equal access to means and resources to pursue those opportunities is another.

While free, quality education is certainly a good start, we have a long way to go before children in South Africa are truly going to be born "free".

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Noxolo Mafu, deputy editor

The month of June is one that celebrates the fighting spirit of the class of 1976 who dared to make a change. June 16 carries the heartbreaking imagery of a dying Hector Pieterson. This harrowing image should feel like an alternate reality to current South Africa, yet triggering images such as these circulate the news more often than not.

This is a daily reminder that the fight is still on. The fight for fairness continues, as students have taken to the streets, workers continue to put down their tools and South Africans collectively stood/stand up against the era of corruption. Sam Nzima, the iconic photographer who took the image of Hector Pieterson, passed away this year leaving us with a monumental piece of history. An image that South Africans must grapple with often as we remember the unjust suffering of the majority of South Africans.

2018 has seen the passing of many South African icons who stood on the front lines as the champions of democracy, such as Hugh Masekela, Keorapetse William Kgositsile and Winne Madikizela-Mandela. All these tragic losses have felt like a baptism of fire for the youth as the pressure to forge the road ahead increases.

The end of these lives serves as an opportunity to build on the foundation that was so tirelessly built by our leaders. Often the news cycle can do a lot to divide people; land, race and the economy can bring out robust and uncomfortable debates. In the same vein, it can bring out the joy of South Africa's diversity and tenacity, as seen in last week's Springbok win under the leadership of Siya Kolisi. For one moment — in all the noise of Momberg, corruption, price hikes and a shrinking economy — it was clear that there is a thirst for hope in the country.

The fight for fairness and change is here and, much like the class of 1976, we have to stand firm in the mission to redress the ills of this country. The fairy dust of the "rainbow nation" has settled and now the real work of building this country is under way. This keeps me hopeful and optimistic, because the focus of young people is sharp and determined. So today, the hope is that we harness the fighting power of the class of 1976 in a way that is motivated by fairness.