The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has set aside R40-million for the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund, according to the agency’s chairperson Sifiso Mtsweni.
The funds will assist poor students, particularly those coming from rural areas, to pay for their tuition fees.
At a gala dinner held last Friday in Freedom Park, Pretoria, the NYDA honoured university graduates who benefited from the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund.
The event commemorated the 40th anniversary of the former MK operative, who was brutally killed by the apartheid government in 1979. It was attended by high profile dignitaries including Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, deputy minister Thabang Makwetla, ANC national executive committee member Pule Mabe and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwebane.
Addressing the gala dinner, Mtsweni said the youth agency welcomed the government’s decision to declare Solomon Mahlangu’s home in Mamelodi a national heritage site.
“The national heritage precinct will do two things for the people of Mamelodi. First it will bring much needed tourism to the people of Mamelodi. And with more tourists coming to Mamelodi, it means the economy of Mamelodi will begin to operate, and when the economy operates it means young people will get jobs in honour of Solomon Mahlangu,” Mtsweni said to a rapturous applause.
During his keynote address, Mthethwa thanked Mahlangu’s family for the opportunity to join the liberation movement to fight for the freedom of the people of South Africa.
“It is our right and privilege to celebrate the fact that we were blessed with so rare a gift of a fellow South African, who was an activist, a patriot, a combatant, an internationalist, a human titan who surrendered his life to the cause of all humanity.
“A principled revolutionary, a true comrade, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu has chosen the suffering of a life of honour rather than the false comfort of his judas. Till death, he was loyal to the principles of his movement [the ANC]. Thank you to the family of Mahlangu. Thank you for producing this patriot and sending him to the nation to fight for the liberation of this country. But thank you that even after his death, even after many other people have approached you to dishonour his legacy, to make you people who you do not know who you are and where you come from, you stood firm as a family and said you know who you are,” said Mthethwa.
Mahlangu’s lawyer Priscilla Jana described him as a leader who was committed to justice, freedom and peace.
She said Mahlangu remained resolute despite torture in detention and gave her the note before he was hanged with the famous statement: “My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight.”
Mtsweni said the NYDA has declared 2019 the year of the youth, where young people must start reaping the fruits of the tree that brought democracy in South Africa.
“Young people continue to be faced with high levels of unemployment and poverty in our country. As the NYDA, because we are an institution of young people, we are an institution that thinks outside the box, we have begun to engage government to say the issue of unemployment can be resolved and can be resolved very easily.
“We can never be told that young people in this country remain unemployed but when you open newspapers, when you go to the internet every day, there’s jobs that are advertised yet those jobs keep young people outside because someone says you need five years’ experience or 10 years for you to get a job.
“We said to the president of the country that you cannot tell us that for you to be a receptionist you need three years’ experience. All you need is to know how to answer a phone and transfer the phone to the next office. You don’t need experience for that,” said Mtsweni.
He told Inside Education that the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund has so far produced over 500 graduates from different universities across the country.
“We have invested around R40-million for the fund, we have 500 graduates so far fully funded from tuition all the way to allowances,” said Mtsweni.
He said it was unfortunate that many graduates remained unemployed because they did not have the required experience to get employment.
“The graduates that we are presenting here today must never become statistics in this country. They must never become graduates that are going to stand on street corners and hold placards to say we are graduates and yet we don’t have a job. The graduates that we are presenting today must apply for jobs. When you advertise jobs, you must remove that demon of experience. If you don’t remove it, we are going to apply for those jobs. We are going to ignore these five years that you wrote there and after we have applied, we will go to the interviews,” said Mtsweni, who directed his remarks to Mthethwa as the senior cabinet member.
Mtsweni said the NYDA expected all graduates of the Solomon Mahlangu fund to contribute towards economic growth of the country.