By JANINE MOODLEY
AS the May 8 election draws closer, research has found a high level of discontent among youth despite a solid belief in the duty to vote.
Dr Ben Roberts, of the Human Sciences Research Council, said 72% of Indian South African youth believed their votes would not make a difference. Of this, 40% indicated they would not vote.
The research, conducted via the council’s Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery Programme, looked at young people of voting age, and their attitudes and intentions towards voting.
It found two prevailing representations of South Africa’s youth have continued to predominate.
“The first portrays young South Africans as politically engaged drivers of change, drawing on the experiences of the recent #FeesMustFall movement as well as reflections of the youth activism of the 1980s.
“In contrast, the second tends to depict the post-apartheid generation as politically disillusioned and disengaged from conventional politics, as part of a broader narrative concerning democratic recession and crisis.”
The overall mood, said Roberts, was quite negative with a high level of discontent.
He said the levels of satisfaction with democracy and trust in political institutions, and national and local government were surprising commonalities with young and older voters.
“People are dissatisfied across the board and there is a steady decline in confidence.”
He said the driving force behind the youth not voting was non-registration and the lack of ID books.
“But the underlying reason is disillusionment. It’s a case of, I want to punish parties by not voting. The youth have become quite critical citizens, threatening parties to either shape up or we will disengage.”
He said one difference between the youth and older voters was loyalty. “If the party did not meet their expectations, they would swing vote.”
Political analyst Sanusha Naidu said: “The youth vote is going to evolve and we need to look at what shapes the mind of young people.”
She believed race, class, inequality and an overall generational divide would play a factor.
“They are not homogeneous. Their vote is underpinned by a generational divide, where youth are no longer held victim to the historical narrative. They are very clear on what their needs are.
“Their struggle is the here and now and material circumstances they find themselves in.”
Naidu said many young people would look at the “material struggle” of their parents, who have not reaped the benefits post-apartheid.
“There is a very specific dynamic in South Africa where the youth are saying: ‘We are not benefiting, we have been marginalised and stuck with poverty and will demand what we deem is rightfully ours’.”