Currently on a sabbatical, I had set an alarm on my phone to stop whatever I’d be doing and switch on the TV to watch finance minister, Enoch Godongwana, deliver the 2023 budget speech. I was curious to hear what the minister would say about – amongst other things – South Africa’s energy and electricity crisis. But I had a particular interest in what the minister would say about unemployment, specifically youth unemployment.
I was left disappointed.
“Eradicating poverty, inequality and unemployment is as urgent today, if not more so, as it was at the dawn of our democracy nearly 30 years ago,” Godongwana said in the 2023 budget speech. He went on to say that unemployment in the country “remains stubbornly high” and that the government has been trying to combat it through policies that support faster growth and address fiscal risks. As a youth in his fourth year of work since graduating with a university degree, the minister’s devotion to addressing unemployment – through his and other government portfolios – feels like a slap in the face of 9.1 million young South Africans who find themselves unemployed. I argue this because minister Godongwana mentioned the “what” – that is, the crisis and extent of unemployment, but failed to mention the “how” and the “when”.
How is the government planning on tackling unemployment and by when does it plan to do so? It’s not sufficient to say that the government is trying to combat unemployment through policies. What policies and by when? How much budget has been allocated? No answers. Why, minister?
His boss, president Cyril Ramaphosa, performed only slightly better in his February 9, 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Ramaphosa spent a considerable amount of time in his SONA, talking about the crisis of youth unemployment, and spoke extensively on the ongoing and upcoming government programmes to combat this scourge. From Employment Tax Incentives (ETI) to encourage businesses to hire more young people in large numbers, and plans to expand vocational education and training systems to produce more skills for young South Africans, Ramaphosa conceivably ignited some hope in our country’s unemployed youth. Ramaphosa, however, failed to tell us by when the government plans to reduce youth unemployment. It’s no surprise then that his finance minister, too, finds it unimportant to give stringent timelines and deadlines in his budget speech.
Having closely followed the SONA and the budget speech, I’m convinced that both Ramaphosa and Godongwana have failed to adequately address youth unemployment – thus failing the 9.1 million unemployed youth of South Africa.
Will our country’s youth unemployment crisis be adequately addressed anytime in 2023? Only time will tell.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.
Mohammed Arai is a law graduate from the University of Johannesburg. With a passion for media and journalism, Mohammed has worked as an online editor, content producer, input editor, and managing producer for multiple media houses, such as Salaamedia and Seen (formerly Hashtag Our Stories). He has bylines in several publications, including Reclamation Magazine – an American-based online magazine.