Rise Mzansi fights age discrimination in jobs

Protesters at a Rise Mzansi rally display signs advocating for inclusive leadership and equal opportunities for all South Africans. Picture: File

Protesters at a Rise Mzansi rally display signs advocating for inclusive leadership and equal opportunities for all South Africans. Picture: File

Published Apr 3, 2024


As South Africa navigates its socio-economic landscape, a stark reality emerges: 2.9 million individuals, in the prime of their working lives, are systematically excluded from vital opportunities for employment and advancement.

In a passionate call for equality and opportunity, Rise Mzansi emerged as a champion on March 2 for South Africans over the age of 35 who face discrimination in job opportunities and skills training.

According to Rise Mzansi leader Songezo Zibi, South Africans over the age of 35 are people who are generally in the middle of building lives for themselves and who carry the burden of caring for their own children, the children of their relatives, and their elderly parents. Many of these people are single mothers.

“They are forced into a life of poverty. At best, they are able to get temporary jobs that pay little or create informal work that does not enable them to put food on the table for their families or build a home of their own.

“Regardless of your age, Rise Mzansi stands in solidarity with you. If you are capable and able to work, you should not be abandoned by your government.

“We have taken up this fight for you, and we will continue to take this fight to the National Assembly and the nine provincial legislatures when new leaders are elected to serve you.

“Rise Mzansi’s advocacy sheds light on the plight of millions of individuals aged between 36 and 44 who find themselves unable to access meaningful employment and skills development opportunities due to age restrictions. These individuals, often in the prime of their working lives, are left to grapple with the harsh realities of poverty and limited prospects.”

The party is demanding for inclusivity to extend to government programmes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and Skills Training and Learnership Programmes administered by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and the Department of Higher Education and Training, respectively.

RISE Mzansi National Leader Songezo Zibi speaking outside the Department of Employment & Labour offices this week. | Supplied

“Beneficiaries of the EPWP scheme receive more than just wages as they are formalised into the economy and also qualify for UIF, and in some places like uMgungundlovu District Municipality, they also qualify for provident and pension funds.”

Ziba said that the neglected and “legacy youth”, those over 35 years old, who are barred from participating in this programme, reach a pensionable age without having any form of pension fund or productive assets and wealth to transfer to their children.

“A person who was 30 in 1994 is now 60 years old and has completely missed out on the chance for formalised employment and a pension fund, owing to their age. This also doubles the burden and cost of care for the legacy youth who are currently unemployed and over 35 and who take care of our elders.”

Rise Mzansi insists on the removal of age restrictions, arguing that such policies perpetuate cycles of poverty and exacerbate the challenges faced by older job seekers.

As the nation approaches elections, Rise Mzansi emphasises the importance of voting for leaders who prioritise equality and understand the implications of their decisions.

Zibi added that they are calling on South Africans to stand together in the fight against age discrimination, affirming their commitment to advocating for the dignity and rights of all citizens, regardless of age, and that the Department of Higher Education and Training lift the age restriction of 18–35 in the Skills Training and Learnership Programmes.

“In a rapidly advancing digital world, even persons in formal employment have to constantly train in new skills and take part in learnership programmes. A government programme such as Seta, which administers training and learnership, cuts out a whole generation of job seekers who are over 35.

“Jobs are hard enough to find, and unemployment will increase if job seekers over 35 are barred from receiving any form of skills training and work experience to match. This is a secondary form of discrimination for those who have been historically excluded and have now also reached the age of 35.

“We need new leaders with experience, with values, and with a plan to build a safe, prosperous, equal, and united South Africa. The South Africa we all deserve must benefit all South Africans, young and old. In 57 days, on May 29, we must vote for new leaders who care and understand the implications of the decisions that they make,” said Zibi.