Young South African voters hope for change


South Africa’s young voters said they hope for more jobs and a change in the distribution of resources, just one day after voting in the country’s national and provincial elections.

Many young South Africans complained about a lack of jobs, high crime rates, corruption and poor public services – issues the governing African National Congress has promised to address.

Young South Africans made up the majority of eligible voters who did not register to vote in the May 8 elections, raising concerns over apathy barely a generation after many of their parents won the right to vote for the first time.

Numbers released by the Electoral Commission of South Africa, indicated that nearly 27 million people registered to vote.

It however expressed concerns about 9.8 million eligible voters did not register.


By (Thando Kubheka)

Election observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have raised concerns over the poor youth turnout at polling stations as South Africa votes in its sixth democratic elections.

The officials representing countries including Angola, Mozambique, Botswana and Lesotho visited a voting station at Freeway Park Primary School in Boksburg on Wednesday.

African National Congress chairperson Gwede Mantashe cast his vote at the school on Wednesday afternoon.

The election observers visited a number of other voting stations to assess whether the country’s polls were free and fair.

Nyeleti Mondlane who was with the Mozambican delegation said they would have loved to see more young people come out to vote.

“And to have young people come out to vote signifies that they have adequate information and they understand the meaning of coming out to vote. If you have an opinion, you need to exercise [it and] vote and voice your opinion.”

Tebelelo Seretse from Botswana said she was impressed with how South Africa’s election was progressing.

“It was calm, it was organised, so we are impressed with that and people seem to know what they wanted to do.”

The SADC observers applauded the Electoral Commission of South Africa for the work it had done so far.

South Africa’s youth missing on election day


South Africa’s sixth general election took place on 8 May 2019. Notably absent from the voters is one population group heavily affected by the country’s most pressing issue: unemployment.

While the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) recorded a record number of voter registration for the 2019 elections, the statistics of registered voters have a notable absence.

People aged under 30 make up the smallest percentage of registered voters nationally. Considering this is the country’s largest population group, it’s a particularly alarming statistic.

The number of South Africans under 20 who have registered to participate in the general election has dropped to the lowest level since at least 1999, according to the IEC’s data. Registrations are at the lowest in at least a decade for those aged between 18-29.

The IEC only started keeping records by age after the country’s first democratic elections back in 1994.

It’s also surprising considering how, superficially anyway, the youth have appeared to be highly engaged in politics in the wake of the #FeesMustFall movement.

The leaders of the country’s two main opposition parties – Mmusi Maimane of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – are also relatively young. Both are 38 and some of the country’s biggest problems directly impact on the missing voters.

More than half of South Africans aged 15 to 24 seeking work are unemployed and the country remains one of the most unequal in the world.

South Africa’s registered voters by age group

Photo: TSA

Where is South Africa’s young voters?

Some believe it’s all down to apathy. Indeed, local media who interviewed young people electing not to vote often said that they feel like they are not able to affect change.

Others say that they just do not feel engaged enough by the current crop of political parties or that they simply did not have the time to register.

“There is an element of voter apathy and not political apathy – in universities, you see robust and noisy politics which is usually powerful enough to effect change,” said Mpumelelo Mkhabela, an independent political analyst told Bloomberg.

“The EFF has helped to energize young people. A lot of people on campuses vote for the EFF. The ANC Youth League has been disorganized.”

The election is the first measure of whether President Cyril Ramaphosa can reinvigorate support for a party whose backing rests largely on its liberation credentials, but now faces the prospect of a reduced majority.

South Africa’s election news with a unique WhatsApp channel


Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh is a social commentator, a rapper, a political analyst, an Oxford University Ph.D scholar and a new media innovator.

He’s also the founder of #SMWX – named after himself: Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh Xperience.

“And no, it’s not another WhatsApp group,” Sizwe says.

“We don’t add everyone in a conversation at once because if anyone has ever been in a WhatsApp group chat they know how irritating that can become.”

Instead people can contact the team directly and ask questions one-to-one, ensuring a more personal response. They can also watch the video content on YouTube and Twitter.

Sizwe seizes the opportunity in his intro video to play on the phrase: #OutWithTheOld and #InWithTheNew. The clever catch phrase doesn’t only apply to the changes youth want to see in the government which is being elected on May 8.

It also refers to how leaders could choose to engage with the youth, using new media to address a young audience.

The youth vote, Sizwe believes, is the vote of power – although many politicians have overlooked this market, disregarding millennials as apathetic.

Sizwe knows better.

Attracting millenials

The response to his platform, he says, “has been overwhelming, proving that the millennials are anything but apathetic.”

Reaching over 5,000 subscribers within the first two days of its launch on March 10, 2019, #SMWX now has over 11,000 followers. That’s a third of what prime time paid TV viewership attracts in South Africa.

As well as news updates and behind the scene footage of political events, subscribers can give feedback and also request Sizwe’s latest music video.

The rapper and scholar’s ambitious pursuits to combine his love for hip hop music and the fruits of his academic scholarship add a special edge and grit to his WhatsApp channel. In addition, his content promises to deliver all the comedy, tragedy, intrigue and drama of South Africa’s 2019 general elections.

On one episode of #SMWX, for example, Sizwe sits down with young political activist Naledi Chirwa in a colorful urban setting. She is a bold 25-year-old who speaks out against gender violence and how male dominance is causing black women to suffer unjustly. Her aim is to liberate the black woman from patriarchy.

In another, he talks to a local white actress who became controversial for attending an ANC rally and was afterwards called “the white cover girl for the ANC.”

Sizwe also puts together news broadcasts – such as a recent one focusing on shabby infrastructure brought to light when recent flooding further damaged roads and shacks in KwaZulu-Natal province. This has led to ongoing protests, with poor communities taking to the streets in their more affluent surroundings to highlight the inequalities in South African society.

How does a 30-year-old graduate fund such a big project?

Just how the #SMWX concept is pulled together is a question that seems to intrigue many of Sizwe’s Twitter followers – they bombard his feed with endless comments and questions like: ‘Who’s filming?’ ‘Is it just him?’ ‘But who’s doing the digital strategy? ‘This is exciting!’

Sizwe reveals that he does the channel in collaboration with a tech company called Thanga.

He was at school with Thanga’s CEO Roy Barole and the two friends have been chatting for years about doing something groundbreaking.

The May 8 elections provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.

In addition, the two have sought grant funding from the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) which accelerates digital media initiatives in SA, especially those run by independent broadcasters such as #SMWX.

How exactly does #SMWX work?

Thanga uses artificial intelligence, instant messaging and chatbots to run the channel – while still maintaining human interaction with subscribers. This kind of technology is, as one Twitter follower comments, “the next level,” especially for a developing nation like South Africa.

With Thanga covering the technical aspects, Sizwe handles the editorial side of things, which gives him the freedom to focus on topics that affect and interest young people – topics such as racism, unemployment, land reform and access to education.

He’s helped by a team of six creatives to do this.

What will happen to #SMWX after the election?

Sizwe says there are plans to continue after the election, to expand the channel “to different places on the continent and in different languages in South Africa.”

One issue is how to make money from the platform and keep it going in the future without diluting the integrity and values of his brand, Sizwe says.

Do we smell a conflict of interest?

After the many years of ANC corruption and nepotism, South Africans are sensitive to any hint of favoritism or conflict of interest. And Sizwe’s dad is Dali Mpofu, a lawyer who happens to be the chairman of the Economic Freedom Fighters – currently the third biggest party in South Africa.

Sizwe is keen to stress that he shares no political affiliation with his dad’s party or any other party for that matter. He says his channel is neutral and he assures followers that he doesn’t have any political agenda other than to be a voice to a younger generation.

But, he admits, his dad – and his mother for that matter – influenced him in that they made it clear politics was important.

“My parents were always political and I grew up in a political household and so politics has always been a part of my life,” explained Siswe, who back in 2014 shot to fame as a rapper when he penned a political song addressed to then South African president, Jacob Zuma.

Growing up in a different generation, he says the situation is different now to when his dad entered politics during apartheid. The youth of today just want to see the government deliver on its promises.

”My hope is that this platform will act as a catalyst for other young people to build a network or discussion and debate using new technology to contest the mainstream media landscape in South Africa,” he said.

Failure to Win Over Youth Voters Could Put South Africa Economy At Risk

By (Sharon Wood)

Some 8m youth voters are either unregistered or registered, but unlikely to vote and 700,000 voters are undecided, given their economic concerns. Corruption and expectations that the economy will not improve post-election are keeping the youth on the fence, while undecided voters cite unemployment as their biggest concern.

Political parties and South Africa have a major challenge as voters gear themselves up to go — or not to go — to the polls on Wednesday 8 May. It’s the perception that none of the political parties is seen be able to solve the most pressing issue voters perceive to be facing the country: unemployment.

That’s according to the latest Citizen Surveys analysis, in April 2019. The South African Citizens Survey took stock of voter sentiment and views after registration closed in April. It’s also in contrast to what parties have been saying in the lead-up to the election. Citizen Surveys’ strategic research director, Reza Omar, says “the political parties’ electoral messages have not always aligned with their political party positioning”.

It is this failure to win the hearts and minds of some eight million youth voters that could put the country at grave risk and put paid to hopes that post-elections some form of Ramaphoria could return as President Cyril Ramaphosa hits the road to fix the economy.

Citizen Surveys delved into youth voter statistics for Business Maverick and found that some 6.1 million of 11.7 million youth voters in South Africa aged between 18 and 29 are not registered. That’s a huge increase of 1.6 million on the 4.5 million voters who were not expected to register, according to earlier surveys.

Add to that the 1.7 million (or 31%) youth voters registered, but unlikely to turn up at the polls, and there could well be a hefty proportion of young voters, the citizens of the future, opting out of the electoral system on Wednesday. That is significant in an election where, as Omar points out, “the choices made by those who have yet to make up their minds [have] the potential to have a large impact on the years to come”.

The underlying concerns of the registered and unmotivated youth voters, of which 63% are unemployed, give some insight into why they are so unimpressed with the political parties that they do not want to vote. The survey found 64% of them believe the economy will not improve over the next 12 months and 87% believe that corruption is increasing.

It’s not just the youth voters who could have a determining influence on the economic climate post elections.

“The key to the electoral outcomes lies in the decision taken by every undecided voter,” says Omar. “The 3% (just under 700,000 people) truly undecided voters remain key to these elections. They are weighing up and considering their options before casting their ballots on 8 May, rather than opting to withdraw completely. How they choose to vote can influence the outcome of this year’s elections.”

She says another factor that could influence who the “undecideds” opt to vote for would be how the parties have managed to position themselves in relation to solving some of the country’s biggest problems, often done through their manifestos and election campaign messaging.

“Often, those voters who make up their minds at the last minute, look to parties that they believe can help solve the issues that most directly impact upon their lives,” adds Omar.

As voters head for the polls, it doesn’t look at all promising. The SA Citizens Survey shows optimism about the future of the economy stands at a miserable 47% compared with 61% when Ramaphosa became president at the beginning of 2018. The overall trend over the past two years shows a decline in perceptions of the economy improving.

According to the 2019 first quarter (January to March) survey results, just more than one in five citizens (21%) felt the economy had improved over the past 12 months.

The most pressing problems cited by voters as requiring proactive attention, in order of importance, were unemployment, crime, poverty and destitution, corruption, delivery of basic services and education.

The survey found 27.5 million people, almost three-quarters of South Africans, felt unemployment remained stubbornly high and considered it to be the biggest problem facing the country. This was followed by crime (34%), poverty/destitution (25%) and corruption (23%). Omar says that the delivery of basic services (housing, water supply, roads, electricity) and education continue to be burning issues, “as is evident by the increasing footprint of service delivery protests around the country”.

This is not a pretty picture for a post-election South Africa. Luckily for the ANC, it is all the leading political parties, including the EFF and DA, which are perceived not to be taking unemployment seriously.

It will come down to the ruling party, and thus the government, putting its money where its mouth is to seriously tackle what voters consider to be the number one economic problem in South Africa. Otherwise, the economy stands to be mired in its sub-2% growth zone for many years to come.

By the time the next elections come around, millions more voters could opt out of the electoral system. DM

South Africa: Non-voting youth are not simply apathetic

By (Gugu Resha)

It is just hours before the 2019 national elections in South Africa and the hashtag #IWantToVoteBut is trending nationally on Twitter. Just 25 years ago South Africa had its first democratic elections after the fall of the apartheid government. It was a historical moment as millions of South Africans, who were previously excluded from voting by the former government’s racist policies, were exercising their right to vote for the first time.

And yet today, years later, many young South Africans find themselves unwilling to celebrate and exercise this inalienable right for various reasons. The youth demographic has had a notoriously low voter registration and lower voter turnout than any other demographic in recent years.

As a first-time voter, and a young person, I am tempted to map out an elaborate taxonomy of youth voters and all their political, economic and social grievances in order to paint a thorough account of why young people don’t seem interested in politics and voting.

The common go-to is that young people are apathetic and, although this may be true on some counts, there’s as much complexity in youth voters’ views as in any other demographic. No group is a monolith and should not be treated as such — and this should apply to young people, too.

The youth demographic in South Africa includes people aged from 15 to 34, with the legal voting age at 18 years old. That is a broad demographic in itself and the multiplicity of priorities in it is equally broad. This means that treating young people like single-issue voters by latching onto a single youth-friendly policy issue such as “youth unemployment”, however valid and popular, simply isn’t going to cut it. The youth are interested in more than one issue — we are interested in political parties’ plans for making higher education more accessible, how they plan to improve service delivery, their strategy for land reform and how they’re going to bring down the cost of living because we’re paying taxes too.

Young people are also not immune to the general decline in positive perceptions about politics and the effectiveness of democratic electoral processes in delivering services and other political goods. This despondence is only entrenched further by the tokenistic engagement of young people during election periods rather than truly including us in other decision-making platforms.

One can’t ignore the glaring absence of civic education in school curricula. It’s no wonder many South Africans are unaware of other ways to hold the government accountable outside of elections. Our schools do not teach the youth about how laws can be challenged, how the legislatures are comprised, how ward councillors and committees are formed or how they can challenge Bills et cetera. Politicians see votes as the only worthwhile form of participation when it is clear that it takes much more to keep a democracy alive and kicking.

Of course, there is the issue of not relating to the political ideologies or leadership of the competing parties. But in order to move past this hurdle, we need to do better by young people. We need to treat young people like the intelligent, capable and important demographic that we are. Parties and government need to engage young people and welcome them in spaces — not as tokens or a challenge to overcome, but as an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and to tap into innovative approaches and new thinking.

Gugu Resha has a BA honours degree in philosophy from Stellenbosch University and works as a youth programmes and capacity building intern for the South African Institute of International Affairs

South African youth divided ahead of general elections

As nearly 27 million South Africans prepare to vote in the general elections slated for May 8, it is uncertain how the country’s youth who count for the majority of registered voters will sway the polls.

The voice of the youth is divided with a few maintaining confidence in the ruling party while most have expressed their confusion in light of the country’s political climate ahead of May 8.

Tertiary student, Kgatlego More’s choice is informed by the party’s concern in youths.

I think my vote can maybe make a difference in our country. The year 2019, it’s been nice because I’ve been in programs that teach me how to become a leader of tomorrow. So I am starting my political life while I’m still young so that I can understand the consequences it madam.

“The reason why I was behind EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters-far left opposition party in S.Africa) was because they voiced the opinions of the youth. They make us realise that our anger is valid, you know. They tell everyone, they make it vocal which is something that all these other political parties, the DA, the ANC and all the others that come after that, fail to do.

‘‘When I look at the EFF, I sort of question where their intentions lie. Because on one hand they do voice our opinions but at the same time I mean they drive fancy cars, they’re always at these fancy celebrations and whatever so is it kind of, I don’t know where I stand with that,” he said.

Lebone Hiasa, is a high school student and first time voter. according to her, “a lot of people don’t vote nowadays because they say when they vote their issues are not resolved. I think my vote can maybe make a difference in our country. The year 2019, it’s been nice because I’ve been in programs that teach me how to become a leader of tomorrow. So I am starting my political life while I’m still young so that I can understand the consequences it madam.”

Source africanews

Moving the needle: The youth vote in South Africa

By Zohra Dawood

As Election 2019 kicks into full swing, the numbers, names and details have become available, much of it online. A healthy 48 political parties will be contesting the national elections, with 26.74 million – or 74.4% – of the voting population having registered to vote. Of this number, 55% are women. A significant number of registered voters, almost 25%, are in the 30 to 39 years age group. Amidst this positive news is the real news, that 9.8 million eligible voters have not registered to vote, with a significant 62% of these under the age of 30 years, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The obvious question is why?

In a previous article, Coming of Age: Why the Youth Vote Matters, the following was posited, “What future would you like to see, and how will you get there?”. This question takes on a greater urgency in the light of the large numbers of youth voters who will not be exercising this democratic right. Perhaps some of the reasons relate to poverty and the cost and logistics of getting to voting stations to register to vote. These factors were identified at a CUD Roundtable Discussion on 28 March 2019, What will Count in the 2019 Elections. Reza Omar, Strategic Research Director at Citizen Surveys and Dr Collette Schultz-Herzenberg, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of Stellenbosch, were the speakers. Dr Schultz-Herzenberg advocated for an automatic registration system when people reached the age of 18 years, emphasising that this was not tantamount to forcing people to vote but would potentially reduce the “hassle factor”. These suggestions were viewed positively by many in the audience at the discussion and, if implemented, might well result in a few more people turning out to vote. It is, however, not clear that the solution lies here. Even without these impediments, the question is whether the actual numbers at the polls would show otherwise.

An additional consideration for most young people is that of having a diverse menu of political options to choose from, and the best means to access this information. On the latter point, the IEC and a myriad political parties have studiously attempted to use social media and other technologies to publicise information, as opposed to previous strategies of focusing exclusively on littering the roadside with posters and banners. The IEC’s Xse (Ek sê) campaign, logo and television advertisements are an attempt to capture the interest of the youth voter. So a glance at a phone, every few minutes, will provide information sought, while Twitter and Facebook are fora for commentary and critique amongst peers.

The thesis that young people of voting age, prefer a myriad and diverse slate of options is a point also worth interrogating, considering the number of political parties contesting the elections. A very tongue-in-cheek analysis of the 48 political parties shows no lack of options. There are 16 parties beginning with an A (and many of these were concocted to appear on the first page of the ballot paper); 2 with a B; 4 with a C; 2 with a D; 2 with E; 3 with F; 1 with G; 3 with I; 1 with L; 1 with M; 2 with N; 4 with P; 3 with S; 1 with U; 1 with V and finally 1 with W, being the Women Forward. If this were an academic report card of the average young person, there would be cause for celebration. Alas, the offering is feeble, and the party propositions offer little succour to the majority of the nine million unregistered voters, especially the youth.

The appeal of these 48 political parties is varied, with ideologies ranging from the far left, like for instance Irwin Jim’s Socialist Revolutionary Worker’s Party, advocating the abolishment of the capitalist system, to Malema’s EFF and BLF with their Africanist views, to more centrist parties, like Patricia de Lille’s GOOD and the DA, to those on the right of centre, like the ACDP. With time and inclination, the manifestos of each will shed more light on their strategies. However, it is unlikely that young people have bothered to drill down and get to know what is offered to them.

The reasons for youth apathy, anger and cynicism about the elections are well-known and detailed in the article cited above. Few political parties, bar the EFF, have expressly pitched a line to the youth or have mobilised this constituency to any extent. The EFF have found the sweet spot of the disillusioned, under-educated and unemployed youth and are using this to full effect. Unfortunately, their approach risks breaking up an already fragile social compact and resulting in even greater racial polarisation.

Every political party, without exception, should be gravely concerned about the current turn of events, if the voter registration process is a barometer of interest in and the health of our constitutional democracy. The risks associated with this voting bloc turning away from democratic principles and processes should sound the loudest alarm bells. The question for political parties is how do they intend to move the needle in order for young voters to see their roles in deepening and thickening democracy in South Africa, as opposed to witnessing an endless game of political point-scoring by parties intent on promoting their own narrow interests, and not those of the electorate.

This responsibility, however, cannot exclusively be placed on the shoulders of political parties. Young voters should themselves heed the prophetic words of former US President Barack Obama, when he said, “What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future”.

It may be too late for the unregistered voters to heed this call, but for those who are registered, the opportunity approaches, come Election Day.

Perhaps it is time for a campaign by all civil society organisations to urge their members – and the the public at large – to exercise their democratic right to vote on 8 May 2019, lest we weaken or even lose that right in future.

Source Politics Web

South Africa: May 8 elections: 40% of Indian youth will not vote


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’.”

Source IOL

South Africa: Will the youth turn up to vote? Let’s not be over-optimistic


In less than two months South Africa will be holding its fifth democratic elections and political parties have hit the ground running with campaigns, hoping to strengthen their voter base.

As generational replacement occurs and younger potential voters enter the system in growing numbers, political parties will ramp up their charm offensives to woo this demographic in the run up to the country’s 5th general elections on May, the 8th.

As the 2019 general elections approach, it is no surprise that the political engagement of the youth has come into emphasis amongst political parties and the media.

Regardless of how they will vote, it is critical for the country’s democratic wellbeing that they become part of the voting public. Young people make up a substantial proportion of the voting age population, which means that their vote can potentially shape the society within they pursue their aspirations.

In light of this, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) last year embarked on an extensive campaign to stimulate democratic political participation amongst young people, by launching a digital communication and education campaign which utilises the catch phrase “Xsê” – a play on the Afrikaans phrase “ek sê” meaning “I say”. This campaign primarily served as a vehicle to encourage young people to register and vote in the upcoming general elections.

The campaign seems to have been successful. According to the IEC, over 81% of the new registrations recorded at the final registration weekend in January were under the age of 30. To encourage further voter registration amongst youth, the IEC intensified its registration drives at university campuses and other higher learning institutions.

Although the Commission can be satisfied with the overall registration level, recent research cautions against over optimism about the actual turnout of young people on election day.

Findings from the latest Afrobarometer Survey for South Africa, which was conducted in 2018, show that more than half (53%) of South Africans say they do not feel close to any political party. The comparable figure for the previous round of the survey, which was conducted in 2015, was 23%. When disaggregated by age, the data for the 2018 survey further shows that more than half (59%) of these respondents are below the age of 35.

Youth turnout is not guaranteed and should not be gauged from mere registration numbers. As political parties proceed with launching their manifestos, they must be prepared to innovate in their attempts to address key youth concerns. One such key concern, is the question of skyrocketing youth unemployment. Those who fail to present convincing solutions to this scourge, will also fail to attract the attention of this key demographic.

Other equally pressing issues that affect them include, the state of the country’s public education system, poor delivery of basic services, and crumbling or non-existent infrastructure.

Their turnout at the polls on the 8th of May, should, however, not be seen as a gauge of their interest or apathy.

Most young South Africans acknowledge the importance of voting as a means to bring about the change they want to see. However, they also seek to be made part of the solution. As a country we need to reach common ground with an agreement that any discussions about the future of South Africa needs to include its largest population segment.

This involves their inclusion in leadership positions in areas that directly affect them. Fostering youth leadership primarily requires creating a space for the youth to live up to their full potential and this is what political parties and government should now set out to accomplish leading up to the elections. Failing to draw on this important constituency, will come at the price of prosperity and advancement of the country.

* Gugu Nonjinge is a Project Leader at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

Source Voices360