Donwald Pressly, Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg), December 21, 2006
One thousand balloons were released on Tuesday by the Solidarity Youth Movement on top of a hill in the administrative capital of Pretoria “to symbolise the plea of head boys and girls from schools across the country to be exempted from affirmative action”.
The chairperson of the youth wing of the largely white trade union, Solidarity, Ernst Roets, said in a statement that the balloons were released from a hill which overlooks Freedom Park — which honours the liberation struggle.
“At the moment freedom is out of our reach — we can see it, but we cannot experience it. That is why we picked a hill overlooking Freedom Park rather than Freedom Park itself,” said Roets.
The movement announced that it was planning a campaign in 2007 to demand that young people be exempt from affirmative action. The campaign will include music concerts, campus referendums and petitions to Parliament.
The occasion was also used to release data obtained by a Markinor survey showing that 53% of people from all race groups between the ages of 18 and 23 felt that young people should be exempt from affirmative action.
“Exempting young people from affirmative action is not just the right thing to do, it is the democratic thing to do,” Roets said.
“We will not cease our campaign until we have achieved our objective. Matrics who finished their final school year in 2006 completed their entire education during the post-1994 era. They should not be disadvantaged on the grounds of affirmative action. This is a generation free from the apartheid past. By imposing affirmative action on them on the grounds of the so-called wrongs of the past violates their human dignity, since they are being accused of something in which they played no part,” Roets said.
“The response of head boys and head girls was amazing.”
He reported that about 95% of the respondents supported the call for exemption from affirmative action.
“These young people are not only angry about being discriminated against — they are embittered,” he said.