PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma yesterday assured the country's youth that the newly formed National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) would create job opportunities for them.
Addressing the main Youth Day rally at Huntersfield Stadium in Katlehong, Zuma said the government was aware of the plight of unemployed youth and those living in poverty.
"We have a responsibility to create an environment where our young people can extricate themselves from poverty and build successful lives," he said.
Accompanied by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and NYDA chairperson Andile Lungisa, Zuma said "the youth are the future of this country and should be able to influence political ideas, strategies and tactics".
"Youth development is a critical focus for our government," he said. "We are therefore pleased to mark the 33rd anniversary of June 16 with the launch of the NYDA, which will usher in a new era and hope.
"Young people are the leaders of tomorrow and should start shaping their future today. It should not be a question of what the country can do for you but what you can do for it."
Lungisa told the jubilant crowd that the agency would bring hope to the youth.
"We are aware of the challenges faced by young people in this country and we are to address them.
"Our main priority would be poverty alleviation, unemployment and HIV-Aids. The formation of the agency would benefit all young people living in rural and urban areas," he said.
The theme for this year's commemoration was celebrating a vibrant youth voice. Among the guests were former ANCYL presidents Malusi Gigaba and Fikile Mbalula, who also addressed the crowd. Also present were ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who arrived hand in hand with former premier Paul Mashatile.
Malema challenged Zuma to deliver on the 500000 jobs he promised after winning the elections as well as to provide proper housing for the poor: "The majority of the unemployed people in this country are the youth. We need good jobs that pay good salaries. We no longer want to live in shacks. We voted for you, our votes are not cheap. Zuma must pay us by providing free education until the first degree."