Stolen jobs for our disgruntled youth

Andrew Donaldson asks whether booting out Zimbabweans is all part of the govt's 'once-in-a-generation-effort'


IT is Youth Day, and 46 long years have passed since the revolt sparked by protesting students in Soweto revitalised the struggle against apartheid. This year’s commemoration will be the 29th to have taken place in a democratic South Africa and still the “Youth of Today”, as this demographic has been lazily labelled, remain a mostly disgruntled bunch. 

Face it, theirs is not a happy lot, poised as they are, not on the brink of a future filled with opportunity and prosperity but one that has long since collapsed into a pit latrine. From whence they emerge each year at this time, sopping and befouled, for their customary rinse and lip servicing by a smug and cynical elite that could not even pretend to give a damn. 

Actually, no; that’s not strictly true. There is plenty of pretence—but nothing, sadly, in any convincing manner, shape or form.

Cyril Ramaphosa, for one, has perhaps conveniently announced what he has modestly termed a “Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme”. This is a thing, it says here, that will introduce reforms to create jobs for “millions of unemployed young people”. 

It is, moreover, a “once-in-a-generation effort”. Which begs an honest question: why was this “once-in-a-generation effort” not implemented one or two generations back? Or even a few years ago? After all, the alarm bells regarding unemployment have been ringing out for decades, and we now find ourselves in a situation where, according to Stats SA, youth unemployment is at 65 per cent. 

That’s two out of every three youngsters without a job, a catastrophic situation that didn’t just happen overnight. Writing in his weekly open letter to the sheeple, Squirrel admits this is something of a problem:  ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

“No society can expect to grow or thrive when the vast majority of its young people are out of work. The economic reforms we are implementing, alongside measures such as an industrial policy to support labour-intensive growth sectors, aim to drive growth and expand private sector employment. However, we cannot simply wait for higher growth to create jobs, especially for young people.”

Fair enough. But then this line, which for all its pithiness, should chill the blood of thinking folk everywhere: “I hold the view that even as millions of people are unemployed, there is no shortage of work to be done to build a better South Africa.”

It reminds of me that old story—I think it was meant to be funny, but it isn’t really—about a man going from door to door, complaining that he is unemployed and hungry. A kindly soul takes pity on him. “Tell you what,” he says, “I’ll pay you to mow my lawn, and tidy up the yard.” Crestfallen, the man replies, “No, you don’t understand. I don’t want work, I want a job…”

A permanent position, in other words; a proper job, along with all the benefits that come with full-time employment.

It’s early days, so none of the finer details as yet about the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme. But perhaps all will be revealed in due course—like in June next year, when another “once-in-a-generation effort” to deal with rampant unemployment among the youth is announced.

I wonder, though, whether the decision by Home Affairs not to renew Zimbabwean Exemption Permits when they expire at the end of the year is not a key component of Squirrel’s current programme. After all, and according to a GroundUp report, come New Year’s Day, about 180 000 Zimbabweans currently living and working legally in South Africa face deportation if they cannot get some other kind of work permit.

This, the Zimbabweans are finding, is well nigh impossible. 

It’s not known if they practice at it, or whether such cruelty comes naturally to them, but there’s no denying that Home Affairs are world beaters at treating people like dirt. One of their requirements for a work permit is that applicants must first advertise in a local and national newspaper to see if there are South Africans who can do the job they’re applying for. 

To get a general permit, immigration lawyer Lorraine Kapungu told GroundUp, an applicant must first get a certificate from the Department of Labour confirming that “despite a diligent search, the prospective employer has been unable to find a suitable South African citizen or permanent resident with requisite qualifications or skills and experience equivalent to those of the applicant”.

This shouldn’t be a problem for those whose qualifications are listed in the government’s critical skills shortage list,. However, a quick skim through the document reveals that many of the executive positions listed—supply and distribution manager, policy manager, quality systems manager, operations manager, and so on—have already been filled by cadre deployment. On the other hand, the skills shortage remains critical even though said positions are filled.

Most Zimbabweans in South Africa are in lower-skilled jobs and will find it impossible to get a waiver from Home Affairs. They will thus have to vacate their positions.

Perhaps the answer lies in prospective employers conducting “diligent” searches to fill specialist positions that no longer exist. Tradesmen like lectors, finger cobblers or sea sponge harvesters have long since gone the way of the dodo. Why not bring them back? Failing that, why not invent some new exotic occupations? Very few South Africans, for example, will be able to prove they are certified bat milkers or goat whisperers. These, however, are common enough skills beyond the Limpopo.

Elsewhere, students have been speaking to City Press, complaining about government’s lack of support, how their voices are unheard and how their future has been “stripped by decades or corruption and neglect—both pre- and post-liberation”. 

In an editorial, the newspaper said youth unemployment is a “damning indictment of how we value our future leaders”, and the inability to include “the ideas of the country’s youngsters and their their needs for the future” into government plans exacerbates this sense of exclusion. 

“For young people,” City Press said, “the vibrancy of opposition and conscious militancy has been eroded. Perhaps it is time for another uprising. Perhaps it is time for South Africa’s youngsters to demand a seat at the table of power. Nothing less will do.”

A revolting youth? Why not, but just as long as they don’t go overboard with all that vibrancy and conscious militancy stuff. And if they must, say the regulars, at least do it well away from the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”). We are busy with other matters here.

Speaking of goats, the Weekend Argus reports that a by-election campaign in Witzenberg degenerated into something altogether quite sordid, with Shaun August, the national campaign organiser for Patricia de Lille’s GOOD party, and Felicity Klazen, the town’s deputy mayor, shocking campaign volunteers with their behaviour.

These youngsters hoping for a “seat at the table of power” have reportedly filed statements in which they describe acts of “gehoerdery” (or fornication) while staying at a local holiday resort. Their claims are indeed disturbing.

“At one event,” one said, “Felicity misbehaved by cursing GOOD leaders. She even showed us youngsters her stinking panty.” Another alleged Klazen walked naked among the volunteers. “She was laying naked on the bed in the same room where Uncle Shaun was,” yet another claimed. “My cousin and I sat in the living room where Uncle Shaun repeatedly (sneaked up behind us) so he could go to the room where the deputy was laying without clothes.” 

And when they weren’t naked on the bed, they were in the swimming pool. One volunteer claimed, “It was very unpleasant for us as youth belonging to GOOD to see the deputy mayor of Witzenberg swimming naked. We were all around the pool, but she had no shame in swimming without clothes.”

It may seem, to the cynical older reader, that it is time to bring out the tiny violins, but honestly, how much more suffering must the Youth of Today endure? Something must be done about this.

Extradition and other procedures

Yes, but where the hell is Ajay Gupta? How did he escape the dragnet? 

That’s the question uppermost on our minds following the arrest in Dubai of his brothers Atul and Rajesh. Rumours swirl—as they do—of a swarthy rotund individual who managed to slip out of the United Arab Emirates wearing a blonde wig and claiming to be an Australian national named Beverly. Unconfirmed reports suggest “she” is now bothering tourists on Rio’s famed Copacabana beach.

The National Prosecuting Authority and the Department of Justice are said to be beavering away behind the scenes to secure Atul and Rajesh’s extradition. While authorities remain “interested” in Ajay, the odd thing is that the NPA controversially canned his arrest warrant in 2019. This after he allegedly offered Mcebisi Jonas a R600-million bribe to become finance minister, a role that would include shuttling lucrative government tenders towards the Saxonwold Shebeen.

The Sunday Times, meanwhile, reports that top extradition law expert Anton Katz SC will be leading the charge to bring the arrested Guptas to SA. The newspaper “understands” that Katz offered his expertise to the NPA in April after a plea by justice minister Ronald Lamola, at the annual meeting of the Law Society, that lawyers offer their services gratis in the prosecution of corruption-related matters. 

“We are at a point,” Lamola told the society, “wherein our democracy is being suffocated by corruption. One thing is becoming increasingly clear in post-apartheid South Africa—corruption has disrupted the government’s ability to implement the structural reforms required to move SA away from the two nations, based on race which was orchestrated by the apartheid regime.”

Not a single word, it must be said, from Lamola that it is his own colleagues in the ANC who had permitted and benefitted from such corruption. No extradition headaches where they are concerned. 

A good news story

More than 100 areas in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro are set to run out of water in a fortnight. National government is stepping in to manage the approaching Day Zero. They have a plan, apparently, and it will result in the appointment of a specialist from water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu’s office as acting executive director for infrastructure and engineering. The absence of such an individual has been blamed for the metro’s inability to deal with the crisis. Meetings will be scheduled, etc etc.

They used to have a water crisis in the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality, in the Free State. It was one that dragged on for more than 13 years. Thousands of residents here, one of the country’s worst local authorities, would queue for hours to fetch water from one of the two wells in the residential area. Then residents voted the ANC out of office in the municipal elections. They now have water. Out of taps.

There must be a lesson here somewhere.

Literary matters

This won’t mean much to members of the Economic Freedom Fighters Book Club, but today is also Bloomsday, named after Leopold Bloom, the hero of James Joyce’s Ulysses and the day on which the 1922 novel is set. A modernist masterpiece, it is notoriously difficult to read, and many never finish it. Those who “cheat”, though, read only the book’s closing pages for the smutty bits. Marilyn Monroe, for example, was famously photographed doing just that in 1955. 

The novel’s final words have become a popular tattoo, and it is not uncommon to catch a glimpse of “…and yes I said yes I will Yes” inked in cursive script on the barmaid’s arm as she’s pouring another round of lady petrol. Try not to stare, though, and don’t ask stupid questions. There’s nowt more cutting that disdain from the Youth of Today. Who will no doubt be convinced you are the most boring of boring old hacks.