EMPOWERING IMBALI’S YOUTH VOICES: DIALOGUE, CHALLENGES, AND ASPIRATIONS

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By Precious Mupenzi

  • The youth of Imbali, facing rain and societal challenges, engaged in a youth dialogue session, aligning with the National Youth Development Strategy. The initiative aims to encourage youth responsibility, active citizenry, and proposing initiatives for community development.
  • Imbali, marked by recent crime surges, including gang robberies and violence, reflects the township’s struggles. The dialogue highlighted socio-economic challenges, with unemployment and dependence on government grants among the key concerns expressed by the youth.
  • As youth unemployment rises (32.1% per Q4 2023 statistics), aspirations for self-reliance through entrepreneurship face funding hurdles. Thulasizwe Njapha, actively involved in community development, emphasises the need for support to address poverty-driven challenges like crime, gender-based violence, and teenage pregnancy in Imbali.

The youth of Imbali bravely faced the rain and gathered in large numbers to express their views in a youth dialogue session organised by Umzansi Youth in Business in collaboration with the Department of Social Development and the KwaZulu-Natal Office of the Premier recently. With less than three months left before the 2024 general elections, which will signify the conclusion of the 6th administration and 30 years of democracy, the youth’s voice holds significant importance.

Imbali, situated in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, has gained attention due to a recent surge in gun-toting gang robberies, mass killings, and rape cases, reflecting the township’s struggle with violence and social ills.

Held under the theme: “Youth and Democracy”, the youth dialogue was in line with the National Youth Development Strategy which reaffirms the country’s commitment towards prioritising the youth mandate, engaging the youth to be part of democratic processes and facilitating active citizenry. Speaking during the dialogues, the Department of Social Development’s Director responsible for Community Mobilisation, Moosa Magubane, explained that these dialogues aim to promote the services of government to the youth and to mobilise young people to be agents of change within local their communities. 

“The programme encourages youth to be responsible and lead their programmes and development and further propose initiatives to government for support, rather than to be dependent on government. Currently, there is a challenge as the youth is entirely dependent on the government,” said Magubane.

As unemployment rates soar, youth vulnerability persists. Statistics South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey for Q4 2023 revealed a 32.1% increase in unemployment, with a notable decline in employed youth. During the session, it became apparent that a significant portion of the youth depends on government grants due to unemployment, yet they aspire to be self-reliant by venturing into entrepreneurship. However, the challenging funding procedures pose obstacles to their aspirations.

Thulasizwe Njapha (29) is unemployed and has a passion for community development and is currently working with local schools to tackle issues of teenage pregnancy, substance abuse and bullying. He explained that poverty in the area is one of the key challenges and contributes immensely to crime, gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy and HIV/Aids in the area. 

“I am unemployed, and I cannot sit and do nothing. As ward committee members, we started a Soup Kitchen to distribute meals to vulnerable people. It was doing well, and the numbers grew, and more children were being served. However, when the numbers grew we could not afford it and had to close as we had limited resources and funding. We then engaged the Department of Social Development for funding and we are busy with the process,” said Njapha. He further urged anyone who may be able to support their soup kitchen to contact him on 065 995 3376 or email: tbnjapha@gmail.com.

When asked about what democracy means to him, Njapha concluded: “Democracy means equality and freedom between one another, but currently it is something we are very far from due to the government system or representatives of the government, if not politics itself.”

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