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South African Politician Reflects on Youth Day as 'Reminder' of Past Generations' Contribution

CC BY 2.0 / Andrew Moore / South Africans celebrate at the stadium
South Africans celebrate at the stadium - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 16.06.2023
On Thursday, South Africa commemorates Youth Day, an annual celebration designed to highlight the significant contribution of young people in the struggle against the apartheid regime.
Youth Day in South Africa is rooted in the events of June 16, 1976, when thousands of students from Soweto in the country's Transvaal Province (now Gauteng Province) began a rally to protest the apartheid government's Bantu Education Act, which demanded that Afrikaans be used on a par with English as the language of instruction in secondary schools.
As noted on the South African government website, the protest was motivated by the whole Bantu education system, which was characterized by segregated schools and universities, poor conditions, overcrowded classrooms, and inadequately trained teachers, rather than by the Afrikaans problem.
In order to disperse the rally, the regime's police opened fire on the protesters. In the violence that followed over the next few weeks, some 700 hundred people, many of them young people, were killed.
In honor of South Africa's Youth Day, Sputnik Africa sat down with Bongani Baloyi, president of the newly formed country's political party, Xiluva, born out of the plight of young people. Baloyi shared his views on the historical lesson that the holiday teaches younger generations.
According to Baloyi, the Youth Day in South Africa serves as a memento of young people who have decided to defend their rights and come together to stand up against the apartheid system in 1976.

"For us, it's a reminder of a generation of young people who decided to stand up for their rights at that point in time and confronted a system that was imposing and also limiting on their rights," Baloyi said. "So June 16 is a reminder of what young people can."

The president of the party emphasized that the example of those young people proves that "youth can change their realities by engaging in politics and ensuring that their voices are heard."
Baloyi said that the holiday also gives young people a lesson that democracy in South Africa, which also enshrined the rights of young people to participate in politics, was worth the "ultimate price" since people sacrificed their lives to oppose a racist regime.

"The biggest lesson young people must appreciate, for me, is the fact that the democracy we enjoy today wasn't free. People died for it, and as a consequence, we have got a responsibility and an obligation to keep and entrench and deepen this democracy," the political leader stressed.

Nowadays, in order to participate in politics, the young people should launch their own political parties, mobilize their peers to vote for them, promote a youth-oriented agenda and vote in elections to become "part of influencing and shaping and co-creating the future that we want," Baloyi believes.
The politician attributed a pivotal role in forging this future to education, which should ensure the continent's comprehensive development.

"Africans cannot remain perpetually into infinity as people who only transact on issues of arts and culture, tourism, human resource, entertainment," Baloyi remarked. "No, we're more, much more sophisticated and our ability is far more than what many people know, but that can only be demonstrated through education."

Moreover, the future world, Baloyi noted, must be multipolar, "not unilateralism, where one country determines what happens in all regions because we're using its currency."
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In this vein, the politician cheered on the use of national currencies in payments between countries, and concurred with the President of Kenya William Ruto, who questioned the need to trade within Africa using the greenback. Thus, Baloyi anticipates a decline in US economic influence around the globe.

"What that demonstrates is really that the hegemony of the US as a global trading system, and the ability to impose sanctions on countries will far more diminish, which will allow economies to be able to be flexible and trade outside of Big Brother," the leader stressed.

Speaking about the effect of the Western influence over Africa and its cultural and political identity, the politician noted that "Africans are stuck in the drive to always want to assimilate, to be like the West." The way out is for the African nations to shape and safeguard their identity, on which the advancement of Africa will be based.

"So we just assimilate everything and don't build something new that defines who we are. And I think that's the point of departure. Let's define who we are," Baloyi underlined. "I like to look at what Russia and China, specifically, are doing. They're not just societies that like to mimic everybody else. You still find unique characteristics."

Furthermore, in his message to young people across the globe, Baloyi called for drawing inspiration from the youth of the past for success in the future.
"We must not only think of the best of us in the past, but the best for us must be the future. Let's draw from the ultimate sacrifice that was made by those for us to enjoy what we enjoy today, and for us to sacrifice and deliver something for those who come after us, to be able to reflect on our contribution and to be proud of our contribution," the leader concluded.