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The June 16 generation crafted its own role in society by mounting a sustained and heroic defiance of the Bantu Education Act no 74 of 1953. Of all the conceivable impediments that stood in their way, this was their main and imponderable foe. They vowed to confront it and paid the ultimate human sacrifice.
Before the June 16 uprising occurred, Onkgopotse Tiro blazed a trail with his Turfloop speech at the University of the North’s (now University of Limpopo) graduation ceremony in 1972. He rattled the feeble foundations of a racist educational system and brought the entire system not just to question but to public and unrelenting rebuke.
Unable to deal with his truth, the system resorted to its callous nature and suspended and ultimately kicked him out. His suspension and subsequent expulsion prompted a nationwide solidarity campaign that resulted in the closure of many other universities in the country.
Forty-five years later this generation has scaled many high positions in society. What then becomes their new role in shaping a new democratic society? Many are parents and others’ grandparents, having to deal with their close and extended family challenges. This role also extends to their communities and society at large.
Having confronted the Bantu Education system, they now have to face the realities of a new society and the type of education suitable for the economic needs of our society. In the realm of education, they need to ensure open access to the “doors of learning and teaching”. This they can do by propagation of progressive policy options based on sound experience and research.
In all their government deployment, the June 16 generation must demonstrate empathy and innovation in the formulation of progressive policies. As activists in their own right, they must keep eternal vigilance on all the laws enacted to ensure that human rights and human dignity is central to all legislative processes.
In the field of higher education, the 1976 generation must seek to break the camel’s back in relation to content and the syllabus that is taught. They must continue to struggle for a progressive alignment and balance between education and skills development.The misalignment between the two has resulted in futile educational outcomes with unemployable graduates armed only with theory.
The 1976 generation must declare war on all forms of poverty; mental, spiritual and above all material impoverishment. With the unfortunate advent of Covid-19 and its far reaching implications, the 1976 generation must provide progressive responses that will enable the state to still satisfy the right to life of many of its citizens. Covid-19 has pillaged many businesses and laid to waste many job opportunities resulting in the overall economic bloodbath. This generation must seek answers in innovation, research and in international best practices to salvage the economy and obviate the pain of distress.
This generation must still hold high the notion of a developmental state so as to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are protected through a number of social welfare interventions. Having said the above, this generation must also ensure that many people are taken out of the ranks of the poor on a yearly basis.
In the SOE’s that they lead and in the boards that they chair, they must be motivated by the quest to industrialise our country through modernisation and infrastructure rollout. This modernisation must also involve urbanisation, altering the apartheid spatial planning and closing the digital divide.
The country is also faced with new challenges that did not exist in 1976. The scourge of drug addiction amongst the youth, the high unemployment rate, high incidents of teenage pregnancies, gender based violence, teenage suicide and many others. Sustainable answers must be found for these debilitating social ills.
In our space the introduction of a new Preferential Procurement Regulations Framework with effect from April 1 2017 is expected to assist a great deal in advancing transformation in the sector. The Implementation Guide of the Preferential Procurement Regulation, 2017, pertaining to the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act No 5 of 2000, stipulates the following amongst others:
a) Prequalification must be used in identified tenders to advance designated groups on the bases of the B-BBEE Status Level of contributor, EME ( Exempt micro enterprise) or QSE (Qualifying small enterprise) or on the bases of subcontracting with EMEs or QSE which are 51% owned by either of the following: black; black youth; black women; black people with disabilities; black people living in rural or underdeveloped areas or townships; cooperatives owned by black people; black people who are military veterans. These are some of the progressive policy and legislative interventions that we have made to empower the youth and the SMMe’s.
The lessons and the vast experience of the 1976 generation must translate into a qualitative change in the lives of our people. The scars borne by this generation and the height of revolt that they attained in their youth must not be blunted by their lofty positions and official status. They must still be activists and change agents.
* Lindiwe Sisulu is the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.