Joy, regrets as NYDA marks 10 years

    Charles Molele

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    On 16 June 2019, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Polokwane, Limpopo.

    The NYDA’s official anniversary celebrations will be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Since its formation, the NYDA has been plagued by rampant corruption, patronage and the abuse of power by its former managers with close links to the ANC Youth League.

    Criticism against the NYDA included questions whether it was carrying out its mandate to develop the youth despite their political affiliations, even inducing calls from opposition parties in Parliament for it to be shut down.

    In 2010, the NYDA made the headlines for spending over R100 million at a youth festival held at the Pretoria show-grounds. The youth event was dubbed, The Kissing Festival, after delegates were seen playing kissing during the first day of the programme.

    During the 2011-20112 financial year, the auditor-general also raised concerns about irregular expenditure amounting to R160 million. The agency’s board and its management were also increased of hiking their salaries.

    On Tuesday, NYDA chairperson Sifiso Mtsweni said the youth development agency has turned the corner and it was now strategically positioned to address youth issues such as unemployment, lack of small business funding, the expensive undergraduate system at universities and various other social problems – drugs, teen pregnancies and school drop-outs, among others.

    Mtsweni was speaking at the launch of the NYDA Youth Month Programme at the Hector Pieterson Museum in Orlando West, Soweto.

    Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and MEC for Sports, Arts and Culture Mbali Hlophe were among those who attended.

    “There were many challenges including how monies were used at the NYDA in the past ten years. There was also a perception that the NYDA exists to serve the interests of the Youth League. In 2010, we also hosted a festival attended by 128 countries, but it was reduced to a Kissing Festival because of a few spin-a-bottle games on the first day of the event,” said Mtsweni.

    “However, we’ve turned the corner. We have received five consecutive clean audits. We’ve appointed the best candidates for the senior positions in the company. We are opening new offices in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal in order to reach as many young people as possible.”

    Mtsweni said in the financial year under review, the NYDA Board has met all its set targets by reaching 100% of its annual objectives, among them 1 103 grants to youth-owned enterprises from a target of 840 grants, thereby creating over 1 000 new business owners in less than 12 months.

    He said people running a small business need government support, but young entrepreneurs are often pushed from pillar to post. “We have stopped giving out loans to young people. We realized that instead of growing their companies they have to start paying back the loan. We have introduced mentorship and training. We need to make it easier for black business to thrive. Our business development support services have supported 25 425 young people from an annual target of 18900. Thus, we have contributed over 5000 direct jobs and a further 5481 through placement in job opportunities,” Mtsweni said.

    “The NYDA has embarked on a rigorous outreach programme that has seen us reach 1 882 243 young people who were provided with youth development information. We have embarked on 68 programs targeted at rural and township youth. We have set ourselves an objective of ensuring that the NYDA reaches far and wide, to date in just 2018/2019 we have opened 17 new centres, in the month of June we are launching 6 new centres in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape rural areas.

    We have always raised sharply the issue of the budget of the NYDA which is not enough. To date, we have raised close to R100 million from partner organizations as well as Provincial and National Departments. As part of Youth Month, we will be launching in the following areas, George, Alfred Nzo and the Oliver Reginald Tambo.”

    Mtsweni said the NYDA commends president Ramaphosa for appointing young people in his Cabinet, however, he said, the agency will also lobby for a Youth Ministry, independent of the Presidency.

    Mtsweni said during the 10th-anniversary celebrations this month, the entity will also give an account of the road traveled, including highs and lows of the NYDA.

    “We will look at the successes and failures on youth development issues. Our celebrations will look at how far we have gone as far as the following is concerned: the merger of the National Youth Commission (NYC) and Umsobomvu Youth Fund (UYF), the signing of the Youth Employment Accord, the recent commitments made at the Jobs Summit and Investment Conference,” said Mtsweni.

    Mtsweni said the recent statistics released of high unemployment by STATS SA was a huge concern to the NYDA.

    “South Africa like many countries in the world has a youth bulge. A phenomenon that presents both an opportunity and a great threat to our young democracy … Statistic South Africa (StatsSA) Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the First Quarter of 2019 painted a gloomy picture about the future. Young people remain the hardest hit by challenges of unemployment, inequality, and poverty. Of the 10.3 million people aged 15-24 years, 33% were not in employment, education or training (NEET),” said Mtsweni.

    “However, we congratulate with jubilation that youth focus is at the center of government work. I take this time on behalf of millions of young people to send our gratitude and hope on the reconfigured cabinet seeing the establishment a Ministry of Employment and Labour to respond to lack of employment opportunities for youth,” Mtsweni added.

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