Form the 6th of August 2021 Africa Unite in partnership with NYDA, Pongola Municipality and Democracy development program conducted Pongola Youth Dialogue in Pongola which is in the borders of Swaziland in the community called Belgrade, 371.3km away from Durban. The aim of the dialogue was to create a platform for young people to engage under the theme; “Creating an Enabling Environment for Young People to Engage in the Spirit of Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke.” The dialogue intended to reflect on the recent unrest and come up with what can be done to prevent it in the future, to identify issues faced by young people in Pongola, and then come up with possible solutions, to enhance young people’s understanding of democracy and its processes, to enhance young people’s political understanding beyond their party-political knowledge and youth participation and activism in local community structures and to attain strategies geared towards an increased youth participation and representation in the local government spectrum.
The dialogue gave space for young people to explore how they can meaningfully participate in their community structures and to devise strategies on how they can address issues affecting them. The content of the dialogue was divided into three sessions which included a discussion on challenges faced by young people in the Pongola Municipality and coming up with solutions, a session on enhancing young people’s knowledge of community structures and engaging in the KwaZulu Natal unrest, and lastly, we heard from stakeholders responding to the issues while also presenting what they do and services available for young people. The setup of these conversations was a dialogue set up to allow everyone a chance to contribute to the engagement.
What is your opinion on the recent unrest as young person from Pongola?
The participants explained that there was no looting or violence that took place in Pongola as the Municipality and members of the community worked together to protect the area. The participants indicated that they watched everything on what was taking place in the province on television. Some wished they had a chance to do it as they saw people benefiting a lot from it but also, they indicated that it was not good to take part in the looting. Moreover, they were also shocked by the number of people who died and those who went missing. They also indicated that the unrest was the indication of frustrations, as people have been patient enough with the government, people are hungry, jobless and they are economically side-lined.
What are the Challenges faced by young people in the Municipality?
- The biggest challenge in the community was access to information and the community members felt side-lined in most cases. The information on opportunities was never shared on time and certain individuals kept the information to themselves and only those close to the officials benefit from it.
- It was also raised that the young people do not bother to acquire information and some do not even think of becoming volunteers to ensure there are always aware of what was happening around them while they wait for jobs or employment.
- It was raised that young people do not even attend community meeting or war rooms to take part in community decision making processes.
- Belgrade is located near the Swaziland Border and most of the learners walk from Swaziland to school. Moreover, most of them have relocated to Belgrade but they are not documented and even those who are documented need to go to Durban to get assistance as they do not get assistance in Pongola. This also make the community to be over crowded, especially recently more and more people have been migrating from Swaziland to South Africa.
- There is no police station in the community and community members need to go to town to access any police services, even the small service such as certifying you need to take a taxi and pay over R50. It also make the rate of crime to be high as there is a very late response from the police station in town.
- So, for the state to prevent that in future, they need to address the issues of unemployment, the issue of exclusion of Black people in the economy and the issue of corruption and empty promises.
- Youth to use the offices and platform they have in the community in a constructive and productive manner, use social media platforms to be updated and be informed also to form groups that will assist in getting information, visit the Belgrade Centre to get more informed about the office available in the centre and get updated on the upcoming programs. If one finds information that they believe it is relevant and worthy of sharing they should do so. The councillor should use the old system of calling meetings ensure that the information is always passed on equally.
- The need for Home Affairs in the community that can deal with these issues and also there should be only one place to move from other country to another country which is suppose to be the border gate and not just anywhere.
- There should be a setalite police station in Belgrade Centre as there is enough space to accommodate it.
Other youth challanges raised were:
Youth Unemployment: Most of this community are young people and the majority of people who are unemployed are young people. Even if there are community projects in the area, young people are the least people to be employed. The possible solutions that came in the dialogue were to have more similar dialogues with different youth, to organise training groups, to start our own businesses, and to do job hunting.
Poverty: It affects the community members psychologically it influences how people think. Moreover, the economy was bad which put the community at the corner to devise new ways of thinking. It was specified that people are not innovative despite seeing that things are getting worse each day and the mindset has not transformed to find positive ways of survival.
Lack of practical skills and platforms to showcase them: Looking at the enormous number of youths within the community, it was elucidated that there is a lack of practical skills within the community which can help especially young people to put them into practice and contribute towards the development of their community. On the other hand, it was designated that with the little practical skills they have, there is a lack of platforms to showcase their skills, especially the music artists who exist within the community.
We then went on to discuss municipal community structures such as Ward committee, street committee, clinic committee, and war room. We engaged in these structures and agreed that as young people it was very important to be part of these structures and occupy strategic positions to make sure young people are represented and their mandate was served. If young people are not part of these structures, it will be very hard to make sure that young people’s interests are served. This discussion was also conducted in a form of group dialogues.
We had a representative from the office of the Premier Mr. Nkosi Gumede, the Pongolo Municipality speaker Mr. VG Masuku, a representative from Phongolo Youth Council Sandile Msimang, NYDA representative Khumbulani Shange and ward Councillor Mrs. Mavundla. We also had the following departments, Department of Social Development, Gambling Licence Board, Liquor Authority, Love Life, Moses Kotane Institute, KZN Economic Development, Tourism and Environment Affairs, and Health Systems Trust. All these organizations and government offices were given a platform to share their services with participants and respond to the issues raised during dialogues.
A peer review was conducted with an intention to check what they learned and how they would like such sessions to be conducted in the future through having a reflection on certain questions which were part of the activity. This was to ensure that we can get what participants think of the sessions we just had and what can we change to make the future sessions more interesting and impactful.
The intended outcomes for this activity were achieved and this could be measured by how most of the participants did not know about how much they can contribute to addressing issues that affect them in the community and how lack of interest to participate in community activities and community structures can negatively affect them as young people. The activity was able to create consciousness to come up with possible solutions to the issues faced by young people in the community and to improve in terms of participating actively in the community and getting involved in the existing community structures and to be united as the youth and speak in one voice for the youth voice to be heard. The contribution from stakeholders made the dialogue more interesting for young people, and they were willing to work with these stakeholders for the betterment of their lives.