Young People in South Africa have historically been at the epicentre of political and social change. During the mid 1970s and 1980s, they played a catalytic role as foot soldiers in the anti-apartheid struggles; thousands were detained, tortured or were forced into exile. Hundreds died in prison or in conflict. There is concern among most black people in South Africa, especially young people, that while apartheid is gone, it's ripple of effects continue to reverberate in their lives.
There is particular concern that large sections of the youth particularly those who live in rural areas have become marginalized and are not effectively participating in the transformation process. The youth are seen in a fundamental sense as dis-empowered and excluded.
The inability (perceived or real) of the most promising, and largest of South AfricaвЂ™s population to participate constructively in the socio-economic transformation of the new South Africa to which they contribute so much, or to which they feel they can contribute to, is undoubtedly a source of deep frustration for many young people. Frustration that in many townships and cities is manifested in the growing levels of youth crime and violence, increased incidence of teenage pregnancies, growing levels of drug and alcohol abuse, increased exposure and rise in contracting HIV/AIDS, indiscipline at school etc.
The inability of most young men and women to calve a definitive niche within the productive sectors of the South African society, the uncertainty surrounding their future employment prospects, the cultural penetration of negative role models, all contribute tot he social reproduction of youth as dysfunctional members of the South African society.
This paper argues for increased youth involvement in the national development discourse and implementation. It is argued in the paper that the involvement of youth in the unfolding development processes should not be always externally induced. Young people should proactively seek to be part of the process of development, rather that waiting for authorities to cajole them into participation.
The paper makes a case for young peoples engagement in voluntary work as one of the critical interventions in poverty reduction programmes.