Coming face to face with Peniaphobia – The reality of being BLACK, YOUNG AND POOR IN SOUTH AFRICA”

By: Sifiso Mbuso Xaba

In his compelling book, The Human Odyssey, Dr Thomas Armstrong gives an introduction to the idea of the twelve stages of life that all mankind are faced with navigating and going through in essence of living life to the fullest. In the book the author submits that the age of 20-35 years old, which is “Young Adult” or the age of early adulthood, is a demanding age of enterprise. This is where most young people experience the boldness of enterprise that comes with the burning pressure of achieving their dreams and goals.

Coincidentally, this is the age that the 1994 “Born Frees” generation finds itself trying to navigate their dreams and challenges of being young. Unlike the popular phrases that came with the dawn of democracy, being “freedom” and “rainbow nation”, the young people of this country still find themselves trapped in the reality of peniaphobia. This causes them to find solace in the pillaging and most horrible drugs such as Nyaope. It leads them into an overwhelmingly depressed society that still bears the brunt of unanswered questions about the real fruits of democracy 25 years since the first democratic elections took place in South Africa.

The relentless global pandemic scourge hit South Africa and the world where no one had expected. This was a perfect time for political party candidates, that are summoned to serve the young democracy, of proving the competency promised to the voters by political parties. The pandemic however, has only proved that we are a country on a ticking time bomb of revolt – a crime scene of systematic poverty pursued by corruption and neglect of public services – whilst the voices of the young people continuously screams without any urgent response to their request. This is most evident when young people are forced to reflect on the fruits of freedom harvested from the tree of liberty planted by the young and restless of 1976. Yet the grumbling of their empty stomach is hard to ignore in a country were the economy is catastrophically plunging and collapsing.

Land is still a scarce resource for mere residential purposes and section 25 is still a pipe dream of political sloganeering instead of a priority of the statesman. The judgement of the Constitutional court comes right at the time when the credibility and reliability of political parties is at question. This outcome has left many thinkers peddling through the streets of social media with a confrontation of ideas. Was there any difference in the practicality of political parties or were the young and unemployed voters ,who are deeply entrenched into academic debt, left with no choice? No choice but to support the better devil between different political icons who have the similar motives of self-enrichment over public development.

The 25 years of democracy in a post-colonial, anti-black state such as South Africa is enough to remind us that the youth of this country have no one else but themselves to change the narrative of a country. A country lead by many alleged fraudsters and corrupt officials that are continuously awarded with higher positions as an opportunity to further plunge the lives of our fellow countrymen into a state of extreme poverty. With the rate that development is undertaken in South Africa, being young, black and free is simply a mask that hides the reality of being poor, unemployed, and hopeless without land.

Photo: Supplied

It is no secret that the President has announced that young people will be most affected by the pandemic’s streak of retrenchments and loss of jobs. This comes not long after the same young people took to the streets demanding the fall of fee increment and later the scrapping of fees entirely on Higher Education. These are the same young people who recently took to the streets demanding an intervention of government legislation on the demands made by the private sector of work experience to recent varsity graduates. These graduates are mostly under privileged and are from areas that cannot even provide them with proper and decent internships. Is it a coincidence that in a space of 5 years since the Fees Must Fall protests in 2015 till date, the life of a young person in South Africa has been on a constant state of shock and depression. A life encompassed with no positive returns from a government that prides itself on a peaceful transition into democracy yet fruitless and dormant in the economic liberation of its youth. Or are we left alone to confront the sad realities of a Gender based violent state that constantly reports high numbers of murder cases against women and children and sky rocketing numbers of suicides and depression found in the same youth that is “born free”.

The answer to ending these chronic social ills lies in the hands of the youth taking action against the horrible acts of a systematic and institutionalised violence of poverty. The same horrible acts that seem to be neglected and ignored by political leaders who constantly benefit one way or another from the votes of the poorest of the poor. The answer is found in our ability to organise and challenge the collective thuggery pursued and protected by the ruling class through the hand of state capture and capitalist interests. Till then young people shall remain in a space where peniaphobia is not a bed time story but a daily reality they are forced to embrace in their parent’s RDP houses and landless future that continues to get blurry for their dreams every day.

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