Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, handing over 36 houses built by youngsters to mark the 36th anniversary of the 1976 Youth Uprising, called on young South Africans to take the lead in bringing positive change to their communities by volunteering their services.
Sexwale was speaking during the handing over of new houses built by youngsters in the farming community of Kirkwood outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape on Thursday, just two days before South Africa celebrates its Youth Day national holiday.
"We emphasis this thing of volunteerism because this is the month when young people took to the streets and took matters into their own hands to better the lives of South Africans - they never sat back," Sexwale told scores of young people at Thursday's handover.
The houses were built by a group of youngsters as part of the National Youth Development Agency's (NYDA's) "youth-build" programme, which encourages young people to participate in community development through the construction of houses.
The 36 houses are part of the 36th anniversary of the June 16 Youth Day commemorations. The agency said each house was subsidised through sponsorships to the value of R79 812.78, which included all the building material.
Sexwale said there was often a misconception among the youth of today that voluntary work was mainly for old people and the unemployed. He found it strange that many young people refused to do voluntary work even if it would equip them with skills.
"This the month we remember a painful year 1976, but what we need to encourage in today's youth is that despite the challenges, they can still do things to better people's lives, things like what these youngsters here have done," Sexwale said.
Sexwale hailed the 150 youngsters who were involved in the construction of the houses, describing them as an inspiration to the nation and the heroes of 1976.
He said that his department and the NYDA would spread the initiative to other provinces to encourage more youngsters to get involved in the programme.
Among the beneficiaries of Thursday's handover was 75-year-old gogo Nongazelo Maqhabase, who had been sharing a small shack with her three grandchildren for many years.
She said: "I do not have words to describe how I feel, I never thought I would one day own a decent house of my own. I am a happy person today, I express my gratitude to all those who were involved in the building of the house."
Sexwale said the government was currently busy with human settlements projects across the country. A total of 10 000 houses were being built in Lephalale in Limpopo province, 50 000 in KwaZulu-Natal, and 35 000 to the south of Johannesburg.
"So we are building human settlements all over the country, and by doing so we are not just putting a roof over people's heads but we are creating jobs for the youth, because construction is a skill - we are providing skills, educations and knowledge."
NYDA CEO Steven Ngobeni said the agency was impressed by the interest it had attracted from young people, considering that construction was viewed as "a sector for the unskilled".
"As young people we are making a statement that we are also present in construction, and we need that skill to be further strengthened in us," Ngobeni said. "As young people we refuse to let our challenges stand in the way of us seeing progress both for ourselves and our communities."
Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Obed Bapela, also speaking at the handover, decried the fact that more than 50 percent of South Africa's unemployed youth were under the age of 35.
He blamed a lack of skills and a high dropout rate at schools as contributing to the country's youth unemployment.
"In 1991, we enrolled more than 1.5-million, but only 500&nsbp;000 reached matric," Bapela said. "We cannot pride ourselves over that; we have to change focus and the way we do things."
He said the Presidency would be requesting all ministers to produce a report on "what they have done for the youth".
"We will be requesting them to give us reports on what is it that they have done in job creation and youth development since we established youth directorates in all departments".Source: BuaNews