/News24.com | Mmusi Maimane | There’s no freedom in hunger
News24.com | Mmusi Maimane | There’s no freedom in hunger

News24.com | Mmusi Maimane | There’s no freedom in hunger

 Partnerships should be created in all sectors so that young people can have access to apprenticeships and workplace experiences, writes the author.

Partnerships should be created in all sectors so that young people can have access to apprenticeships and workplace experiences, writes the author.

The focus for South Africa going forward should be the economy because only by growing and creating a sustainable and fair economy with good jobs can the country live up to the promise of 1994, writes Mmusi Maimane.


“It’s the economy, stupid!” has been a popular political slogan since James Carville coined the term for the Bill Clinton election campaign of 1992.

It has been 29 years, but the slogan is arguably still relevant to what politics needs to address. 

South Africa had its first democratic election this month in 1994. What was meant to be a turning point and the beginning of shared prosperity by all is increasingly looking like yet another disappointing story.

The South African economy is stagnant, crime is rampant, and citizens are naturally dejected by the failures of political leadership. We can go on and on about who is to blame but the truth will always be that the buck stops with the people who sought out political office and were then elected to lead. South African politicians have got to be held responsible for not only the expected deliverables from leaders, but they should also be held accountable for the lived reality of citizens.

Getting serious about the economy 

Worthy leaders and fresh, evolving ideas produce results. Uninspired leaders and old ideas produce what South Africa is in 2022. 

The focus for South Africa going forward should be the economy because only by growing and creating a sustainable and fair economy with good jobs can the country live up to the promise of 1994. We know that there is no freedom to be found in hunger and hopelessness and we should get serious about the business of creating the country of our potential.

We are nearing three decades of democratic elections, and it is critical that we do not miss the juncture of political and economic freedom because try as we may to convince ourselves of otherwise, the day does come when it is too late.

It is for this reason that I propose some actions for reflection. 

READ | South Africa’s no-fee school system can’t undo inequality

Education remains one of the key barriers to entry for young people in South Africa when it comes to accessing their dreams. We see this almost every year, with protests erupting across South African campuses. I propose that we figure out the numbers and make way to providing free tertiary and technical education for every school leaving young adult so that all of those who work hard are justly rewarded for their efforts.

Our young people need to know that they are supported in their striving and that getting an education will mean access to a job or opportunities where they can create their own jobs. A serious first step to finding the money for this is to eradicate politicians’ corruption and wasteful expenditure. 

Secondly, I propose that we create partnerships in all sectors so that our young people can have access to apprenticeships and workplace experiences so that they might have some income while also learning valuable lessons about the workplace.

Establish community centres 

By introducing young people to the workplace to collaborate with and learn from their seniors, we would be on track to make South Africa more productive, efficient and ready for the future. 

Thirdly, I propose that the Department of Public Works establish community centres where young people can register to receive some paid work that improves their communities. This work can include planting trees, building community recreational parks, tutoring the elderly or other work that otherwise contributes to a joyful and peaceful life. It is a shame that young people who want to work are losing hope in what their country can do for them. This should not be so, and the economy is the starting point to fix this. 

Another proposal that would go a long way in relieving some of the pressures felt by our young people would be the implementation of a job seekers or entrepreneurial grant for all school leavers so that they can afford to look for work or pool funds together to start businesses and grow their local economies.

READ | OPINION: Calvin Matlou and Siseko Maposa – Creating jobs in SA – don’t forget about the SMME sector

Young people can only know the freedom that we tell them they have by being empowered and able to control the trajectories of their own lives. This is currently not the case, and far too many remain stuck because of circumstances that they did not create or ask for. I also propose that we remove some of the red tape that exists for small business owners, such as costly start-up costs and allow them to plough back into their communities by providing employment and essential goods and services.

Ensuring that communities are sustainable and confident in their abilities to be prepared for the future will have ripples effects for our country. 

Lastly, I would propose that South Africa subsidises transport costs for low-income earners so that more of their earnings can be taken home. Studies show that South Africans spend more time than any other commuting to work. This can perhaps be attributed to apartheid spatial planning that segregated and put people far away from where they need to work.

South African policymakers need to consider that undoing the unjust past means policies that specifically aim to reduce the strain felt by citizens. The aim should be to make lives easier and less strenuous.

As leaders in politics, business, education and thought, our work should focus on making sure that no citizen is awake in the early hours of the morning, worried about things that we can address. The freedom of democratic South Africa should be relieved from unnecessary worry. 

– Mmusi Maimane is the leader of One Movement South Africa. 

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