Representatives from COSATU and the DA Youth debated the Youth Wage Subsidy (YWS) at Tuks Hatfield campus on Thursday.

The debate was organised by Student Representative Council President Mthokozisi Nkosi. Through organising such events, Nkosi hopes to create a Tuks culture of “open-mindedness and tolerance,” regardless of political views. He told the audience that he hoped the debate would raise questions amongst students regarding both national and international issues. Before the debate commenced, Professor Nicola Viegi of the South African Reserve Bank and Tuks, delivered a keynote address. He examined the economics of the YWS, and concluded that it cannot be viewed in isolation. Professor Viegi noted that the social cost of youth unemployment is high and said that in the “lost generations” created by youth unemployment, resources are being wasted and will be lost in the future.

Phindile Kunene, National Chairperson of COSATU, and Mbali Ntuli, DA Youth National Chairperson, debated whether the YWS would solve youth unemployment. Ntuli, arguing that it would, was declared winner of the debate, which was adjudicated by the Tuks Debating Union. The proposition, in favour of the YWS, was represented by Tuks debater Prenil Sewmohan and Ntuli. Sewmohan, who spoke first, suggested that the potential positive benefits of th e YWS outweigh the cost with which it is associated. He said that the YWS will create a culture where skills and education are valued. In her speech, Ntuli advised that South Africa “[needs] to be creating a country of entrepreneurs.” Citing findings from the National Treasury, Ntuli said that 420 000 jobs would be created through the YWS. In her conclusion, she implied that the opposition had not proposed any alternatives to the subsidy. The opposition was represented by Tuks debater Paida Mangondo and Kunene. Mangondo advocated the reformation of the South African education system rather than the implementation of the YWS. He alleged that through the YWS the value of adequate training would be diminished. This, he said, is unfair to those who have gained experience and training, and who have worked hard to receive tertiary education. Kunene addressed the problems of youth unemployment and pointed out that, globally, the youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than older people. Echoing Mangondo, Kunene said that education is the biggest problem this generation faces. “The youth are all dressed up with nowhere to go,” she said. Kunene countered the number of jobs Ntuli said the YWS would create, saying that the National Treasury had revised the figure to about 170 000. Speaking to Perdeby after the debate, both speakers emphasised the importance of student participation in current affairs.Kunene told Perdeby that it is important for students to be empowered, while Ntuli said that students “must be actively engaged” in issues affecting them.

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