By Nobukhosi Ngwenya
I had the pleasure of being in the company of a number of the country’s unsung heroes this women’s day. The Robben Island’s Public Heritage Education department organised a woman’s day celebration with a difference. They brought together the nation’s unsung heroes of the apartheid era — women. Their contribution to the struggle went beyond the 1956 march. These women sacrificed their own lives, and, in many instance their families for the greater good. Despite their varying backgrounds, they had one common goal — to end apartheid.
What will it take for us, the youth of today, to find that common goal we are, or at least should be, striving towards?
The first step is for us to actually begin engaging in robust debates that will lead to the identification of the ‘struggle’ for our generation. For the most part, these debates are not taking place. This is not to say that various organisations, in particular the youth structures of organisations such as the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA) and Pan African Congress (PAC), to mention but a few are not engaging in discussions around this topic in their meetings. For all intensive purposes, I am sure they are. However, the problem is that these discussions are taking place in isolation from each other. As long as this remains the case, we will not reach a point where we realise that irrespective of our ideological underpinnings, we are all after the same thing — the betterment of the youth and generations to come.
On the rare occasions when organisations come together to debate youth issues, it is usually in a bid to highlight how one’s organisation is better than the next. While this may be necessary to garner votes during election periods, outside of these periods should we not be creating platforms where we as youth can engage, ‘name’ the cause and find a way, or more than one way, forward. Or is this just a pipe dream? Is it too difficult to put our differences aside and admit we are actually on the same side?
Once the goal has been identified, the next question becomes: how are we going to fight the enemy? This is assuming of course that we reach a point where we agree about who/what is the ‘enemy’. Do we take to the streets in protest? Do we draw up petitions and present these to our parliamentarians? Are these legitimate and relevant modes of effecting change in the age of social media?
Protesting, which often takes a violent turn, is presented by the media as a working class undertaking. Only the workers are shown ‘toy-toying’, vandalising property and it is precisely these images that terms like ‘revolution’ conjure up. Unease with the use of terms such as ‘revolution’ and associated negative images lead one to distance him- or her-self from movements that utilise such language within their discourses. Some people who shy away from protesting would choose to effect change through the courts for example. This would be a lengthy and expensive endeavour. It would not appeal to those who want to see change immediately and cannot afford to further indebt themselves for the cause. Thus we reach yet another impasse. Our differences continue to be our stumbling blocks.
How do we move forward? Or should we stay in our respective corners and fight alone?
Nobukhosi Ngwenya is a One Young World Ambassador, who is currently studying at the University of Cape Town towards an MPhil in Development Studies. She is also the co-founder of The Schoolbag South Africa.