SAFCEI Youth Ambassador's Statement on Nuclear at the Kathrada Memorial

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Siphokazi, SAFCEI youth ambassador & Right2Know activist, having her statement read out at the Kathrada memorial. Photo: Sean Brown

The inspiring statement on the nuclear deal from SAFCEI's youth ambassador & Right2Know activist, Siphokazi Pangalele, which was read out at the Kathrada memorial:

"Ahmed Kathrada got his first taste of politics when he was 12 and served his first stint in jail for political activism at 17. He was an inspiration to youth to become active.

The reason that I am standing here and not able to speak is both symbolic, and symptomatic, of a problem we have in this country. Normally youth are not given a platform, we are not given a voice and we are not allowed to voice what we need, what we want in a country that is supposed to be our home. In a country where we are supposed to be able to change the future. Therefore even if we speak about what we want, we are shut down by our government. It is very painful to have so much to say and no one to listen.

Today is an opportunity to speak.

I am a young black woman, a South African who believes in a democratic country.

I am part of the Right2Know campaign. Because people have a right to know what is going on. People have the right to have information about matters that affect us.

And not only to know about issues, but also to have a say, to be consulted. For youth will have to live with actions of this government. The consequences of the actions of today will be with us, the youth and our children forever.

So now we come to this nuclear deal. The nuclear agreement was signed with Russia in 2014, but I only heard about it in 2016, two years later. The first I heard of it was when I attended a workshop in November last year.

Pravin Gordhan, who was critical of the nuclear deal & was subsequently dismissed in a shock move from President Zuma, also spoke at the Kathrada Memorial. Photo: Sean Brown

This secret nuclear deal could cost us South Africans R1 trillion rand or more. It would mean that money is supposed to be for education, grants, healthcare will no longer be there. The money that is supposed to be used for bettering our country will have to be used to pay off the nuclear deal.

That day in November last year we gave a letter of demand to parliament demanding they have public hearings, to hear the voice of the people. To this day, they have not listened. Government doesn’t want to listen.

I became a Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute - Safcei- Youth Ambassador to try to explain to others what is happening. What is happening in this country around us, because so many people don’t know.

Two organisations, SAFCEI with Earthlife Africa Joburg, have taken the government to court over the secret nuclear deal. The court case was supposed to be heard in mid-December. But government used dirty tricks to duck the court and delay the case. Finally in February this year, the case was heard and we believe it will be successful, we are waiting to find out.

We as the youth of this country don’t only want to be given the name of being “tomorrow’s future” yet not having any input in any decision-making. We don’t want to be told that we are the future but without having any input into the future at all. We want to be acknowledged, and recognised with whatever capacity we have, and whatever background that we come from. We can have an input into creating the society we want. In all the decisions that are made now, we will only be happy to own them, make changes to them, and be accountable for them, if we were part of deciding them from the word go.

As youth, we refuse to pay for the nuclear deal that will take away so many things from the bright future of this country."