A NEET or N.E.E.T is a young person who is “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”
This speech was delivered Wednesday in Cape Town by DA Leader Mmusi Maimane, ahead of the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament on Thursday.
Ladies and gentlemen
Members of the diplomatic corps
Members of the press
Good day, Goeiedag
I’d like to begin by extending my condolences to the families and friends of the 94 people who died from neglect while in the care of the Gauteng health department.
It is a black mark on our history that will never be erased. We will not rest until those responsible have been held to account.
I pray for their loved ones to find peace and comfort in these difficult times. You have the love and support of many South Africans.
My fellow South Africans and our international guests,
The celebrated African-American writer and activist James Baldwin once wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Baldwin’s powerful words speak of courage and determination in the face of adversity, and the futility of giving up before you’ve even started.
This holds great meaning for us in South Africa. The battles we must face if we want to turn this country into a place of fairness and prosperity are daunting, and they are many.
But Baldwin reminds us that while we might not win all our battles, we only have a chance of winning those we fight.
Not everything that is faced can be changed,
but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
Fellow South Africans,
I’d like you to imagine a South Africa where we choose to face and fight these battles in great numbers.
A South Africa where small victories against poverty, against economic exclusion, against unemployment come together like the tributaries of a river, until our country is carried forward on a fast-moving and powerful current.
Imagine a South Africa where every sector of society – government, business, civil society, churches, NGOs and ordinary citizens – all pull together in the same direction.
Where we put our heads together and harness the power of our combined ingenuity to better the lives of millions of excluded South Africans.
Where we are not overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the jobless and the hopeless.
Where we see every battle for human dignity as a battle worth fighting.
Imagine a South Africa where the staggering R280 billion we spend on education – more than one fifth of our national budget – is matched by the results.
Where children in the most remote rural schools reach adulthood confident that the world has something to offer them, and that they have something to offer the world.
A South Africa where the scaffolding and cranes of new job-creating projects mark our city skylines.
Where the words “ratings downgrade” and “junk status” have disappeared from our daily discourse. Where investors see opportunities that tower above all the risks.
A South Africa where the corrupt are shamed and shunned. Where those who steal from the people are dealt with swiftly and decisively.
A South Africa that stands tall, on the continent and in the world, as a beacon of hope, freedom and human rights.
A South Africa where we face our challenges until we have overcome them, as we once did back in 1994.
Fellow South Africans, this is the South Africa I see. This is the future I choose to believe in.
Some people may mistake this optimism for naivety, because the challenges are just too big.
But I know what we are up against. And as James Baldwin taught us, if you want to change something, you have to face it. You have to call it by its name.
In South Africa, that name is injustice. It is injustice that defines our history and it is this injustice that continues to this day.
Make no mistake, we have come a long way since the days of Apartheid.
More South Africans have access to basic services, to housing, to schooling and to healthcare than ever before.
More South Africans own businesses and have title to their land than ever before.
That 17 million South Africans receive a social grant to alleviate extreme poverty is an enormous achievement.
Yes, we have made progress. But we need to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth: We have not done enough to roll back Apartheid’s legacy of injustice.
The laws that brought about this injustice – laws like the Land Act of 1913 and the Bantu Education Act of 1953 – may be gone, but their devastating effects live on.
It is deeply unjust that millions of black people remain dispossessed of the land from which they were forcibly removed.
It is unfair that a black child in South Africa is still a hundred times more likely to grow up in poverty than a white child.
And it is unacceptable that more than two decades into our democracy, young black South Africans face unemployment levels of over 60%.
9 million South Africans cannot find work, many of whom have long since given up looking.
17 million South Africans depend on social grants to survive.
Between Grade 10 and Grade 12 half a million children either disappear from our education system or get stuck in lower grades because they are not equipped to write matric.
The children in 80% of our schools will receive an education that is considered among the very worst in the world – an education that will consign them to a lifetime of poverty.
Those young people lucky enough to get a tertiary education graduate knowing that they are entering a job market that can absorb only a fraction of them.
Those that don’t make it join the fast swelling ranks of the unemployed. Many lose all hope of ever finding a job and simply give up looking.
Over three million South Africans are what the sociologists and economists call NEETs.
A NEET or N.E.E.T is a young person who is “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”.
NEETs are locked out of our economy without jobs, without opportunities and with little hope of finding their way back in.
These young people may be the so-called ”born frees”, but they are everywhere in chains.
They are our lost generation.
I believe that rescuing the lost generation is our greatest challenge. And it is a challenge that the ANC government refuses to face.
The ANC has many reasons to want to stay in government, but creating opportunities for South Africa’s lost generation is not one of them.
The ANC has become, in the words of former President Mbeki, “a corrupt and ignoble parasite”.
Indeed, the internal battle in the ANC is fierce because it is about who controls access to patronage, who can capture the state, and who can get themselves and their cronies sorted out with nice tenders.
The rot of this enrichment culture has spread throughout the organisation. Whoever gains control of the party will be the new head of a massive parasitic patronage network. And the cycle of looting will start again.
This is why the ANC government cannot be saved from itself. Swapping leaders is a purely cosmetic exercise. It will not bring the change our country needs. It will not help the lost generation of young South Africans who remain locked out of our economy.
Fellow South Africans,
We will never give up on the lost generation. They are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our grandchildren. We will not gamble with our future.
Over the next year we will focus our attention on these young people. We will highlight their challenges. We will stand in solidarity with their plight. We will talk to them, and we will listen.
Together with the young people of this country we will build a brand new policy platform – a Rescue Plan for this lost generation.
Freedom, fairness and opportunity will be at the heart of this plan. A policy package that puts each young person at the centre of their own development, a master of their own destiny.
Because one of the things I have learned in my conversation with young South Africans is that they are tired of being told what they want and what to think. And they are tired of depending on the government for their well-being.
Young people want to be free to make their own choices in life and build their own futures.
They don’t want to be patronised by hand-outs, and they don’t want to rely on the welfare of the state or the charity of others.
They want to be recognised as individuals with personal agency and free choices, and they want the opportunities and the means to express this.
And this is what our Rescue Plan will set out to achieve – to restore the dignity and independence of the millions of South Africans who still find themselves locked out of our economy and reliant on the state to survive.
To achieve this, our plan will utilise a “whole of society” approach, where we partner with business, NGOs and churches to find solutions to our many challenges.
Our Rescue Plan will build a lean, efficient state tasked with creating opportunities for people, instead of the bloated, corrupt state that is only dragging us backwards.
Starting with pre-school nutrition and ending when young adults enter the labour market, a DA government will treat the youth as our greatest asset.
Opening opportunities for young South Africans, and preparing them for these opportunities, will be our greatest focus.
We will harness the energy and passion of the thousands of committed teachers and principals to lead the charge in turning our schools around, while shielding our children from the destructive influence of the politics of some unions.
We will protect each teacher’s right to strike, and unions’ right to represent their members in negotiations affecting their conditions of employment.
But we will ensure that the right to strike is limited to ensure a minimum core of teaching hours, and that unions do not encroach on the day-to-day running of education departments.
We will also invest in training existing teachers and recruiting more teachers with excellent skills, particularly in maths and science. We’ll explore the feasibility of bringing back teacher training colleges, and make it easier for excellent teachers from other countries to help plug skills gaps in our education system.
And we will look at ways to give parents a greater say over their children’s education. One idea we are looking into is a voucher system. Instead of funding going to schools as it does now, funding would follow the child in the form of an education voucher.
This will give poor parents the financial power to take their kids out of a school that does not perform and into a school that does. This, in turn, will foster healthy competition amongst schools to attract learners. Under this system, only schools that provide our children with a decent education will survive.
To ensure that teachers and principals are supported and held accountable for the performance of their learners, we will seek to create a National Education Inspectorate.
This inspectorate will be empowered to conduct visits to schools – without notice where necessary – to assess the effectiveness of teaching and learning in the classroom. The results will be used to ensure improvement where it is needed.
Another idea which has been piloted with great success by the DA government in the Western Cape is our Collaboration Schools, where public schools operate in partnership with non-profit organisations and private sector sponsors to improve management, governance and teaching and learning in schools. We’d look to roll this out this nationally once we are in government.
Our national obsession with the matric pass rate has masked the fact that almost half of all Grade 1 learners don’t make it to matric twelve years later. It is time that the system worked to prevent learners from dropping out. And so we will incentivise schools to retain learners instead of leaving them to join the ranks of the lost generation.
The best way to ensure that learners remain in school is to ensure that they acquire the requisite reading, writing and calculating skills in the Foundation Phase. We will thus concentrate on improving this Phase as part of our retention strategy.
Upon leaving school, our Rescue Plan will ensure that young South Africans can improve their chances of finding work through a host of diverse education, training and internship options.
Those qualifying for university will be able to access funding through an expanded National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Our poorest students will be comprehensively supported, and the missing middle, who cannot secure funding or bank loans, will receive support proportional to their family income.
We will also aim to give matriculants who don’t qualify for university a free year of technical and vocational training.
To increase the quality and quantity of our higher education institutions, we will invite universities with an international presence to open campuses locally and partner with local universities.
One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to employing young people is the lack of experience in the workplace.
To bridge this study-work divide and equip graduates with the necessary skills, we will invest heavily in a private sector apprenticeship programme whereby small businesses can qualify for grants to hire apprentices, on the condition that they train these people and transfer useful skills.
We will also establish a nation-wide government internship programme across all departments, similar to our successful Western Cape model where 750 matriculants pass through the programme each year.
With a comprehensive plan that looks at schools, higher education, vocational training and apprenticeships, we will empower young South Africans and give hope to the lost generation.
We will face the things we want to change.
But preparing the youth for the job market is just one half of the equation – the supply side.
The other half is creating a demand – an expanding labour market to absorb these millions of young South Africans. And this means sustained, inclusive economic growth.
The DA’s Rescue Plan will approach growth and job creation not as a government problem with a government solution, but as a partnership with businesses large and small.
Only the private sector can create jobs at the scale and pace South Africa needs, which is why we will radically reform the labour regime to support job creation – especially for low-skill labour-intensive small businesses.
We intend to turn South Africa into a nation of entrepreneurs. The small, medium and micro-enterprise sector will have our full support because this is where 90% of our job-creating potential lies.
We will do everything we can to minimise the regulations they face, including exempting both small businesses and young people from minimum wage legislation.
We will start a Jobs & Justice fund, like Singapore and Colombia have done with much success, to give entrepreneurs access to the capital they need to start and grow businesses.
This fund will be managed by our country’s leading economic thinkers and it will invest heavily in innovation, targeting those sectors with the highest potential for accelerated jobs growth such as tourism, agri-processing and the green economy.
In order to attract investment to industries that employ many young people, such as call centres and IT companies, we will establish Special Development Zones, equipped with the necessary infrastructure such as fibre internet connections.
Our Rescue Plan will see us invest in the kind of infrastructure needed for inclusive economic growth, and not the projects designed to generate kickbacks.
We will stop the nuclear deal, and open the electricity grid to more independent power producers. And we will invest heavily in broadband and integrated transport systems, as we are already doing in the Western Cape.
We will look to partly privatise State Owned Enterprises by offering shares to employees and excluded South Africans, as well as to the private sector. This will free their boards from capture by politically connected elites and improve the quality of service to South Africans.
We will adopt a once-empowered always-empowered policy for the mining industry, and we will reject the investment-killing MPRDA. We will be looking to win back investor confidence in this key industry for the benefit of all South Africans.
For us, Black Economic Empowerment will be about mass inclusion, rather than elite re-enrichment. It will reward companies that put young black people through school, that mentor them, and that offer them apprenticeships to grow their expertise.
Companies will be strongly incentivised to offer young black people employment, and to extend entrepreneurship and ownership opportunities to them.
Our Rescue Plan will empower South Africans by giving them ownership of the land they live on through the transfer of title deeds, and we will identify the vast tracts of government-owned land for redistribution.
We will support King Goodwill Zwelithini in his promise to deliver title deeds to those living on Ingonyama Trust land, and we will urge traditional leaders elsewhere to follow the example of the Zulu monarch.
But beyond state and trust land, we will also incentivise commercial farmers to establish farm equity schemes, whereby workers share in the ownership of existing, successful farms
This allows for a progressive transfer of ownership and skills – something which has been found to be far more successful than a wholesale transfer of land to people who are ill-equipped to farm it successfully.
We will also work hard to open up more markets for the goods that South Africa produces. We will expect our embassies to earn their keep by becoming trade and investment centres.
Much of that trade must come from African countries. We are part of this continent and cannot afford to overlook the potential for trade right here on our doorstep.
We must take heart from the decisive way in which the ECOWAS states dealt with Gambia. The fact that so many countries in the region are now governed by former opposition parties points to a successful transition to a post-liberation movement era. This is possible here in the SADC region too.
Our Rescue Plan will cement South Africa’s role in Africa and in the world – not only as a protector of freedom and defender of human rights, but also as a valuable trading partner.
Fellow South Africans,
The DA’s Rescue Plan recognises that inclusive economic growth requires a peaceful, healthy society along with an honest, caring government.
We will add an extra 50,000 police officers to the police service and we’ll train them and resource them properly. We’ll ensure they’re on the streets, active and visible in their communities, instead of behind desks.
We’ll bring back the specialised police units to face the most serious crimes head-on. Some of these, particularly drugs and gangsterism, are really our lost generation’s cry for help.
We’ll also work hard at establishing strong linkages between the police and community safety groups, the courts, local municipalities, the department of social development, local businesses and private security companies.
We will build a caring state that will protect all our people, and particularly the most vulnerable in our communities – people such as the 94 mental health patients who tragically died whilst in the care of the Gauteng provincial government.
Our Rescue Plan includes a workable, affordable universal healthcare plan for all South Africans – a healthcare plan that doesn’t destroy our efficient private health sector, but rather benefits from it.
Unlike the government’s National Health Insurance, Our Health Plan won’t bankrupt the country and can be rolled out in half the time.
It will vastly improve maternal and child health, offer efficient ambulance services for all, accelerate the building of clinics, fix broken hospitals and provide a free basket of basic health services to every single South African.
We are already piloting aspects of this plan in the Western Cape, where we’ve brought maternal mortality rates down to about half the South African average.
Ours will also be an honest, capable state. Not one that militarises our parliament. Not one that deploys the army to protect a corrupt president.
We will stop corruption. We will trim the fat of our bloated, inefficient state by halving the number of ministries, capping spending on consultants, making tender and procurement processes transparent and cutting government perks like travel, vehicles, catering and VIP protection.
Our public servants will know that their job is to serve all South Africans, and not the other way around.
Fellow South Africans,
Our Rescue Plan will have an obsessive focus on inclusive economic growth, but I can tell you, from first-hand experience, that this growth needn’t be led by national government.
Our provinces and our cities can be the drivers of the kind of growth we need to put millions of people in jobs.
If you stop corruption, if you guarantee consistent service delivery, if you invest in the right infrastructure and if you keep communities safe and clean, businesses will want to invest there.
Where we’ve been governing in the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town, as well as Midvaal in Gauteng, the DA has succeeded in attracting investors by doing the basics of good governance right.
One only need look at the success of Saldanha Bay as an oil and gas servicing hub, and Atlantis as a green economy hub, to see the enormous benefits of clean, investor-friendly government.
The Western Cape Government’s Project Khulisa, spearheaded by Premier Zille, has set a target of 235,000 jobs over the next five years by focusing on the key economic sectors of oil & gas, agri-processing and tourism.
Over the past five years investments of over R17 billion have been made in renewable energy projects in the Western Cape, creating over 2,000 jobs on these projects, and another 700 in component manufacturing.
Tourism in the province is also flourishing, with a record 10 million passengers serviced by Cape Town International Airport last year.
After a decade of DA government, the City of Cape Town has cemented its place as a globally competitive business and tourism destination.
Cape Town’s foreign direct investment strategy is ranked 21st in the world by the prestigious FDI Intelligence report – the only African city on the list. This is why Cape Town has the lowest unemployment of any metro. This is what attracts so many people to the city.
The City has rolled out extensive infrastructure, including the excellent MyCiti Bus system and over 800 kilometres of fibre optic cables connecting far flung corners of the metro.
Mayor De Lille is now implementing the Organisation Development and Transformation Plan aimed at reversing the legacy of Apartheid spatial planning and improving service delivery for Cape Town’s poorest communities.
The DA’s clean, transparent government has attracted billions of Rands in investment and created thousands of jobs in the Western Cape, the City of Cape Town and Midvaal. But today we’re a party with a massive footprint in government. We now govern for over 16 million people, including four of our eight metros.
And in these newly-won metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, we have plans to replicate our government successes and turn these cities into hubs of growth and employment.
Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is working closely with business to develop its long term vision of becoming a lifestyle, tourism and investment destination of choice. This includes plans for the development of a world class waterfront to help unlock the city’s tourism potential.
In another collaboration with the private sector, Mayor Trollip will launch a Youth Jobs Desk in his office this year to tackle youth unemployment by facilitating work opportunities in the private and public sectors.
The City of Johannesburg has targeted investments of R120 billion over the next five years, aimed primarily at bringing opportunities to the poorest citizens. Part of this plan is the development of the Marlboro area to provide the people of Alexandra with sustainable jobs near where they live.
Mayor Mashaba has also announced plans to revive the inner city through a coordinated precinct approach. The idea is that this redevelopment supports emerging entrepreneurs in sectors such as textiles, creative media, cultural tourism and ICT.
The city is also working on an Artisan Programme that will empower youth in critical skills in the construction and public sectors. Recipients will receive internships from the city as well as assistance in starting their own businesses, which the city can then contract directly for service delivery.
In Tshwane, the new DA government is driving economic growth in its strategic industries: the motor industry, business process outsourcing, agri-processing, business tourism and the aerospace industry.
Mayor Msimanga has also embarked on a project to clean up the city to make it attractive to investors again.
Through a combination of good governance, investor-friendly policy and pro-poor spending we will turn these metros around, as we have been doing in Cape Town since 2006. We will make them centres of growth, innovation and, most importantly, employment.
And when the 2019 elections roll around, we will have the inside lane in the race for the Union Buildings, from where we implement our Rescue Plan for South Africa and its lost generation.
My fellow South Africans,
In less than three years we will go to the polls to elect national and provincial governments. I assure you, the DA will be contesting those elections with the aim of winning.
We don’t know what will happen in the future, but we do know that nothing can be changed until it is faced.
Many did not give us a chance of governing three new metros after last year’s elections, and look where we are today. As a party, we are now already preparing for national government.
South Africa needs a government that is willing to face its many challenges – that is willing to fight every battle. And the only party that can do this is the Democratic Alliance.
We are aware of the enormous responsibility this brings, and we are ready for this challenge.
We know what we need to face to bring about change.
And when we take office in the Union Buildings and embark on our Rescue Mission, I trust that we can count on your continued support to make this wonderful country of ours work for all our people.
I thank you.