THE National Youth Development Agency came under fire from unemployed youths as well as panellists at The Herald/NMMU Community Dialogues at the Missionvale Campus on Saturday.
The NYDA is aimed at helping young South Africans, regardless of political orientation or race, to start up their own businesses.
But participants at the dialogues – aimed at finding strategies to remedy unemployment and encourage entrepreneurship among the youth – spoke of their daily struggle to obtain any form of help from the agency.
The panellists and the delegates also criticised the ailing education system and the quality of graduates produced in the Eastern Cape.
The panellists included Ayanda Kota, of Grahamstown’s Unemployed Workers’ Movement; Kazeka Masholugu-Kuse, owner of Daring Media and a Herald columnist; Sandiso Makwethu, regional convener of the ANC Youth League; and Andrew Whitfield, provincial DA Youth League chairman.
Masholugu-Kuse fired the first salvo when she spoke of her personal experience and her struggle to get her business idea off the ground.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at the face of an angry young, educated and driven black female entrepreneur. Why am I angry, you may ask?” she said.
Four years ago when she completed a media studies degree she thought her education would provide her with a job with benefits – but this did not happen.
"The NYDA is a failure of note. When I brought my proposal to them, I was informed I needed surety.
"Can they explain where a budding entrepreneur whose grandparents were victims of the Group Areas Act would get surety?” Masholugu-Kuse asked.
Sonwabo Kulumani, an audience member, said the NYDA concept was good, but he questioned whose business ideas the organisation funded.
He also questioned the conduct and the criteria used to employ staff working at the NYDA office in Port Elizabeth.
Kota, meanwhile, said the NYDA was a "cash cow for the few elite” in the ANC Youth League.
"We must deal with the issue of unemployment seriously. The crisis in education and the level of poverty must not be blamed on apartheid,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by a member in the audience, Makobandile Mpunzi.
Mpunzi, a developmental studies student at NMMU, said there was a need to create jobs that could sustain young people.
Another audience member, Calvin Ngalo, questioned the use of labour brokers.
"I have never been in a permanent post since I stared working in the 1990s,” Ngalo said.
Makwethu likened the high unemployment rate among the youth to a cancer eating society.
"Government must form partnerships with the private sector to address bottlenecks. The education system and lack of skills are examples of such bottlenecks,” he said.
Whitfield said the youth dialogue presented a unique opportunity for young South Africans to actively engage with the crisis of youth unemployment. He did not believe a youth-specific event of that nature had ever taken place in the city before.