Address by President Nelson Mandela at National Youth Day event

16 June 1995

Master of Ceremonies;
Leaders of the youth;
Comrades and friends.

Today, in various parts of the country, local communities - students, parents and teachers - have come together to clean schools. They are committing themselves to make teaching and learning a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

This is one of the central messages as we mark the second South Africa Youth Day under conditions of democracy. Through these activities, we are driving home a central message:

-that education is the most important asset that our youth should acquire; and

-that for the government to succeed in improving education, it must have the support of students, teachers and parents alike.

That is what the spirit of Masakhane is all about. We can only succeed as a nation if we build one another and build our country together.

For its part, the government is taking the education system out of the crisis it has been in for years. We have abolished apartheid education departments. We have started phasing in free education. We have taken the first steps to improve conditions in technikons, training colleges and universities. Through the Public Works Programme, we aim to impart skills to our youth.

We are doing all this because we know that, without education, our efforts to provide jobs, better health facilities, water, electricity and other needs, will not be sustained. The RDP requires youth with skills.

But remember: at the end of the day, your progress will depend on how you apply yourselves to your work. The road to a better life demands hard work. It demands discipline, patience and responsibility.

This generation of youth stands at the border-line between the past of oppression and repression, and the future of prosperity, peace and harmony.

On behalf of the government, I wish to say once more, that no one receives the attention of our government more than the youth. You are our future. In your hands is the key to make South Africa a great country; to make our society a prosperous and caring nation.

Dear Comrades and Friends;

When we marked June 16 last year, there was understandable concern over the delay in declaring this day a public holiday.

Today, we can proudly say that we have given a fitting tribute to our young heroes. June 16, South Africa Youth Day, is a paid public holiday.

We celebrate June 16, 1995 after our first Freedom Year, with new and bigger challenges facing the youth. You were in the forefront of the liberation struggle. Today you must be in the forefront of reconstruction and development.

Three days ago, our parliament ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The document bearing our nation's signature is being handed over today at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

This UN Convention gives us a standard to measure progress in fulfilling the rights of our children.

Children were the beneficiaries of our very first steps to improve the living conditions of our people, through the school-feeding scheme and free health care.

The government recently brought an end to the detention of young people in prisons. The Constitutional Court outlawed corporal punishment of children. These were totally unacceptable practices, with no place in our society.

But these measures have a wider meaning for the youth. And I want to address a special plea to all South Africa's youth:

Join hands and assist government in dealing with the scourge of crime and lawlessness. The success of the Community Safety Plan depends on co-operation between the youth in particular and the police.

Resist the temptation to use drugs, and to be used by criminal syndicates in their drive to destabilise our society. Prove to the criminals and the lawless that they have no friends in our midst. This applies even more in our efforts to deal with the scourge of violence.

We meet here in Ezakheni, one of the areas that have experienced political violence in the past. The message I bring you is a message of peace. Throughout South Africa, the nation is busy improving its lot in conditions of peace. I call on the youth of KwaZulu/Natal: don't allow yourselves to be left behind. Join your brothers and sisters in the rest of the country in bringing about peace.

Without peace, you cannot have proper education. Without peace, it will be more and more difficult to create jobs; business will invest its funds elsewhere; tourists will not come to these beautiful environs that your province has.

KwaZulu/Natal's youth should join hands to promote free political activity; to foster political tolerance; to condemn and remove no-go areas. The future of KwaZulu/Natal is in your hands. Build it today!

I wish to assure you that I remain firm in my commitment to stop violence and save lives. Those involved in violence, irrespective of parties from which they claim to come, must know they will face the full might of the law. Killers will not have any mercy, no matter what positions they occupy. Nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of this objective; because peace and prosperity are what the people of this province want. This is what you deserve.

served also if leaders ensure that they do not make statements which incite their followers to violence. At our recent cabinet meeting, Finance Minister, Chris Liebenberg appealed to all of us to ensure that we do not make remarks which have the effect of frightening away investors. The ANC and I accept this without hesitation.

And I call on ANC and IFP members in KwaZulu/Natal to rise and fight for peace. We have it in our power to stop this tragedy, which goes against the spirit of our great heroes: Shaka, Cetshwayo, Dingane and others. The killing of Zulu by Zulu must stop; the killing of South African by South African must stop. Violence must end.

The task of improving people's lives is even more challenging in the rural areas. Here, apartheid left communities in conditions that defy description. That is why the RDP puts such emphasis on rural communities. And, above all, we want to ensure that the rural communities themselves determine their needs and priorities.

Traditional leaders have an important role to play in this effort. And we appreciate very much the statements of King Zwelithini about the need for peace, rural development and investments.

We call on all traditional leaders in KwaZulu/Natal to join with us in these efforts. We appeal to them to take active part in the rural development projects being introduced.

The government is determined to improve the conditions of traditional leaders. Though this may take some years to achieve, we want to make sure that they lead a lifestyle which respectable leaders of their stature deserve. We want to ensure that they can play their role as community leaders without political interference.


The youth, as the future of our country, have an important part to play in shaping our new democratic constitution. We are all impressed by the submissions you made in the public hearings of the Constitutional Assembly held recently at the World Trade Centre.

We are also following with keen interest the debate on the draft bill on the youth commission which we announced last year. And we will ensure that this process is speeded up.

This will create better conditions for the youth to be a full part of reconstruction and development. It will ensure that the youth, from whatever walk of life, background and race, embrace the growing national consensus and serve the interests of South Africa.

I am confident that South Africa's youth is more than ready to meet the challenge of freedom. Wherever you are - in the schools, in religious institutions, at work, in the army and police services, in sporting bodies, as cultural workers... be assured that we love you all and you shall always remain in our hearts. We are firm in our conviction that you deserve a better future.

Together let us build that bright future. Masakhane!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation