South Africa is falling behind in reaching most of its targets for the United Nation’s (UN’s) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted during the year 2000 and set to be reached by 2015, the Youth development Summit in Cape Town heard yesterday.
The summit which opened in Cape Town yesterday is expected to run for three days.
Speaker after speaker addressing the approximately 300 delegates between 18 and 35-years-old said the youth are suffering the most as a result of the country’s inability to meet the MDGs.
The MDG targets adopted in 2000 include overcoming poverty, reducing maternal and child mortality, reducing the burden of disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality and environmental degradation.
The country’s deputy minister of International Development and Cooperation, Marius Fransman, painted a grim picture, saying South Africa was falling behind in reaching the MDGs despite positive trends in the rest of the world.
“The gap between wealth and poverty is on the increase, and how do we bridge that gap?” asked Fransman.
To a loud applause, Fransman blamed the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) for millions of youth in the country being unskilled, saying the “NYDA crippled themselves and that is reality”.
As a result the youth were running around “like headless chickens” with no direction and purpose in life.
Fransman said the issue of young people being unskilled was not because the country had no resources, but the way they distributed.
But Fransman also blamed young people for not taking responsibility for their lives.
“If you go to Khayelitsha and Bontheuwel they (youth) say they are poor but they are wearing Nike tackies and Levis jeans, something is wrong,” said Fransman.
With only two years to go before the 2015 MDG target, United Nations Development Programme coordinator Agostinho Zacarias conceded that reaching the MDG targets seemed far-fetched for South Africa, as well as the African continent as a whole.
“Africa has not done well in reducing poverty. The objective is to reach 100% literacy because there is a lot we miss when we cannot read and write. There is still a lot of people living in poverty,” said Zacarias.
He said by closing the door on the youth’s face when discussing the MDG targets was not the way to go because “you, as the youth, have a right to participate in these consultations”.
“If we are deciding your future and you are not participating, you will be left out and miss the opportunity to engage with your MP’s and the government about the challenges young people face,” said Zacarias.
“If we are not dealing with issues affecting the youth we are setting ourselves to fail. Youth need to take responsibility because it is your future we are talking about here,” he said.
Ella Mangisa, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Ilitha Labantu, which organised the summit, would not divulge how much has been spent on the summit saying that kind of information was “logistics” which she could not discuss.
Monde Nkone, 25, one of the participants from the Eastern Cape, said he had enjoyed being at the summit.
“It is a great honour to be here and I would share my experience with other young people from my village. Previously I was not taking any initiative but blaming the government, here I have learnt that it is up to each and everyone of us to change things for the better,” said Nkone. - Sandiso Phaliso