Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Unlike his contemporaries who based their research on maladjusted members of society, the American psychologist Abraham Maslow turned to a study of leaders and exemplary people in a bid to understand the stages of human development. He found that human beings have a hierarchy of needs, and if physiological needs go unmet, the need for a sense of belonging or a sense of achievement become inconsequential.
This is a self-evident truth when one looks at the needs of the majority of our people in South Africa. For those who don’t know where their next meal will come from, a discussion around prejudice or creativity is meaningless. According to Maslow, even morality, problem solving and acceptance of facts do not enter the equation until the needs for food, water, health and employment are met.
That is why the priorities of Government often seem misplaced and leaders fail to speak at the level of the people. In South Africa, some 4,3 million people are unemployed. Their focus is not on nation building or a programme of moral regeneration. Their concern is how they will pay the bills, get medical attention for their children and rise out of the inevitable debt trap.
I was born in an impoverished region of KwaZulu and I still have my home in Mahlabathini. We suffer frequent power failures and, for several years, Telkom has not seen the value in replacing stolen cables that would enable me to have a home telephone line.
Nevertheless, I have not traded my life among the people I serve for a luxury home in the suburbs.
I feel that leaders often lose touch with their people when they rise to power, because comfort breeds complacency. One thinks about the National Youth Development Agency, which celebrates one year of existence this month. The Agency is tasked with overseeing training for young South Africans. But the millions of Rands allocated to it have gone into Business Class flights for the executive and a trip to Turkey with the President.
The recently released Quarterly Labour Force Survey by Statistics South Africa shows that we shed 171 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2010. If one were to try and imagine how many unemployed people that constitutes, picture the whole of Johannesburg being without work, and add another million on top of that.
Stats SA has a third indicator beyond employed and unemployed, which is the category of "discouraged". These are the people who have given up hope of finding employment and are caught within the cycle of poverty. Many of these are young people, unskilled and ill-equipped to enter the work force.
To these, the promises of Government ring hollow, like President Zuma’s announcement of youth employment initiatives and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s offer of subsidies for companies that employ young people. We are now mid-way through the year and nothing has come of these good intentions. It is unlikely that much will happen over the next six weeks as we all but shut down for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
I have warned in the National Assembly that we are raising a generation that will remain unemployed because we are failing to impart skills that they can use. I recall the many graduation ceremonies of the Emandleni-Matleng Training Centre which I officiated over, in which I emphasized the IFP’s vision of self-help and self-reliance.
Emandleni-Matleng equipped young people with life skills, empowering them with competence in practical fields like agriculture, animal husbandry and carpentry. This was part of the IFP’s drive to see individuals equipped to rise above their circumstances, and take others with them.
During my years as the Chief Minister of KwaZulu, I focused on development programmes that emphasized the value of lifelong learning.
I still believe that education is the key to our people’s full liberation from poverty and its accompanying social evils such as disease, injustice and despair.
But we need to be strategic in the kind of education we offer, acknowledging that a system that prepares young learners to be tolerant team-players is less important than one which equips them to be contributing members of society. The satisfaction of doing a job well is something that many of our young people are barred from experiencing.
Like Abraham Maslow, our Government needs to study the good examples that abound. There is no use dwelling on the negative, as some are prone to do. Pointing out the failures in the system is only useful when it brings us to the point where we begin looking for a better way of doing things.
This being Youth Month, we are given pause to consider the specific needs of our youth in terms of their health and well-being. As another psychologist, Dr Sigmund Freud, pointed out, love and work are two essential elements to the health of any human being. If we want to raise the standard of living for our youth, we need to find ways of addressing the ever-increasing unemployment among them.
I was interested to hear my former Deputy Minister’s suggestions on reintroducing military training for our youth. The Hon. Ms Lindiwe Sisulu has a point. Unlike conscription, voluntary military training could impart not only skills, but a sense of work ethic, responsibility and belonging, which are essential characteristics of contributing citizens.
Emandleni-Matleng was run along military lines, emphasizing discipline, respect and order. I may be faulted for being old-school when it comes to valuing discipline. But when we open the newspapers and watch the news, and see images of rioting crowds, taxis burning and toilets being ripped up, every citizen of goodwill longs for a champion to bring order back to South Africa.
For years the IFP has been that champion. Our fight becomes more difficult by the day, but we keep fighting regardless, because the cause of serving the people of South Africa is always worth the effort.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe, 082 729 2510.