Young South Africans are politically engaged, but can’t see how the system works for them, studies find

By Lelethu Tonisi

At a recent seminar to discuss youth politics, the 2019 elections and beyond, two research papers were presented, both exploring youth participation and engagement with South African politics. The picture they paint raises interesting questions about the legitimacy of political parties and the extent to which they reflect on young people in their manifestos.

Young people are typically perceived as apathetic and disengaged, but new research by the Institute for Security Studies and the Youth Lab shows they are actually highly engaged in political processes.

“It might be different to the formal ways of voting and elections, but they are still highly critical of political leaders,” said Miche Roberts when presenting the outcome of the ISS research at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute seminar at the Market Theatre on 27 March 2019.

And, “just because young people are not in a political party doesn’t mean they don’t know what’s going on,” MD of Youth Lab Pearl Pillay said when discussing her organisation’s work.

Roberts helped conduct the research by the Institute for Security Studies to assess reasons why young people vote, what informs their voting behaviour and how gender roles play a role in protest behaviour.

The ISS research focused specifically on communities considered high protest areas. The chosen sites were Katlehong, Eldorado Park, KwaThema, Atteridgeville, and Actonville. Ages were split between 18 to 19-year-olds and 20 to 29-year-olds to reflect both new and experienced voters.

Roberts said there wasn’t a lot of literature review on the gendered nature of political participation and voting in the country, on how young men and women engage with one another in protests and the perceptions they have of one another, the roles that they identify with and how each chooses to vote and protest.

She said during their discussions, young people mentioned unemployment, corruption, crime, and drug use as key issues they hoped to see addressed. Interestingly enough, land expropriation hardly came up in the conversation. She says this illustrates the extent to which political parties actually consider what young people are concerned about.

“It also goes back to the question of whether young people are constituencies or used as a political ploy to get votes,” she said.

The ISS research finds that young people believe that voting is important because they live in a democracy. It represents freedom from oppression, but they opt out of voting altogether when they see it as offering no benefit to them. Parties making empty promises deter them from voting, says Roberts.

“While voting intention is very high — according to Ipsos polls, 75% people, more or less,(have) register(ed), but only 50% are expected to turn out,” she says.

According to Roberts, an interesting aspect of their findings is the transactional and reactional nature young people have towards voting — that young people take votes as a transaction in exchange for services that they would not necessarily obtain in other ways, for example, jobs and drivers’ licences.

In KwaThema they found that young people were being asked to vote in exchange for jobs by local municipalities and councillors.

“One person said to us: ‘The other day I was attending an ANC meeting and they explained that if we keep attending meetings and vote, we will get jobs,’ ” Roberts said.

In terms of protest action, Roberts said they found that young men self-identified as belonging on the frontline because they believed they were stronger, more physical and angrier about the lack of service delivery. Women, on the other hand, were considered the brains behind the protest and more peaceful in their approach.

She said one reason behind heightened protest behaviour among the youth that came to the fore was because they were not getting access to services and institutions.

“Young people are not necessarily impulsive, but there is a long list of participation and engagement with institutions before a protest is instigated,” she said.

Pillay said that from the Youth Lab study, they found that although there was great political engagement, there was a rejection of formal elections and political processes and a move towards alternative organising and engagement with political topics.

“Just because young people are not in a political party doesn’t mean they don’t know what’s going on,” she said.

Youth Lab is a youth policy think tank working to build the capacity of young people in the spaces that they work. They compiled the South African youth manifesto from the understanding that young people were largely excluded from the manifesto-making process despite making up a large portion of the country’s population. The consolidated report highlighted the voice of the youth, contrasted with what political parties were saying in their manifestos to asses if they reflected the voices of the young.

She said what they found was that young people still wanted to be included and for their voices to be heard, that they want to participate in political engagement, but were unable to see how the system worked for them.

“There’s a rejection of many different things. Once people found out about the kind of electoral system we use, for instance, they were unhappy and asked why people can’t be elected directly. So, there is a rethinking of the role of political parties and what elections actually mean,” she said.

She said there was an idea among young people that elections are not a one-off event, that they represent an entire cycle of events that leaves communities forgotten.

Pillay said young people had picked up on the fact that political parties were campaigning just for votes, but not doing the work of community development.

“They are in tune with the level at which parties are being genuine or not,” she said.

Mosa Phadi, a researcher at the Public Affairs Research Institute, said that although the two reports and their findings were significant, they did not tap into where the country was 25 years into South Africa’s democracy and how the youth operated in that space. She said 25 years later, young people find themselves living in a country where their grandparents and parents could only dream of a good life and freedom, but were presently watching a democracy their forebears had hoped for burn, in some cases literally.

“As we have seen in the past 25 years there have been moments of rapture, regression, disconnect, and lull, and I think the youth has been very important in operating in those spaces,” Phadi said.

According to Phadi, youth participation was always seen through formal participation such as elections, and which is used to measure representation and a sense of voice. But as both reports have indicated this may not be the most accurate measure.

“They may not know what proportional direct representation is and what it means for elections, but there is an element of knowing where the site of power lies,” she says.

From her Marxist views, Phadi said did not see the youth as a class, but rather as a reflection of the mood of society.

Source Daily Maverick


$10 million boost to give African youth new opportunities

A South African businessman has been talking about his donation of $10 million to the #FundKidsLikeSuccess campaign, a campaign that will help kids throughout Africa have access to an education.

The money, which will establish a partnership between several organizations, is coming from South African businessman Xolane Ndhlovu, which has lured hands-on involvement from the multi-millionaire in charitable projects around the region.

The campaign aims to initiate an international movement that will inspire others to take part. The funds are being managed by UMEH Group, working with other organizations through social media campaigns.

The money will be used to reach out and help selected kids throughout Africa that do not have access to education. The project aims to cover educational costs, clothes, and living expenses for children that lack financial means, also encouraging others to participate and help.

“This project constitutes the beginning of a fascinating new activity that will become an important and much needed focus in my life. I am proud of what UMEH has achieved and what we’re looking to achieve”, said Ndhlovu.

The project was initiated by Ndhlovu , a man who also came from humble beginnings and a conflicted upbringing. Now a major business Tycoon in South Africa, Xolane Ndhlovu is the founder and CEO of UMEH Group, a holding company in South Africa affiliated with several prominent firms.

Source Baltimore

More than 50% of South African youth can’t pay tertiary tuition

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Thursday released a thematic report confirming that about 51% of South Africa’s youth between ages 18 – 24 do not have the financial means to pay for their tertiary tuition, SAnews reported.

Furthermore, 18% of those who were not attending educational institutions attributed it to poor academic performance.

Titled – Education Series Volume V Higher Education and Skills in South Africa, the report, which uses data from the General Household Survey (GHS) 2017, indicates that only 33.8% of youth aged 18 – 24 were attending educational institutions.

Among those, 22.2% were attending school while 11.6% were attending post-school educational institutions.

Furthermore, the report shows that the general trend in participation in all institutions of post-school learning was upward, with total enrolment in higher education institutions in 2016 amounted to 49.9% of all enrolments within the sector.

The TVET colleges amounted to 30.8% of all enrolments; CET colleges 11.9% of all enrolments and private colleges 7.4% of all enrolments within the sector.

Despite gains in higher education participation rates, the report noted that gender disparity was still a challenge, as was participation equity for students from low-income backgrounds.

Female participation in 2016 at public universities was 58%, and 57% at TVET colleges.

Most students were enrolled in undergraduate NQF Level 7 programmes at universities, mostly studying for qualifications in the fields of business, commerce and management sciences, education or engineering.

Most students enrolled at TVET colleges in 2016 were studying for Report 191 qualifications.

Report 191 programmes also known as NATED are delivered under the auspices of the Department of Higher Education and Training and quality assured by Umalusi.

The programmes consist of 18 months of theoretical studies at colleges and 18 months of relevant practical application in workplaces.

Engineering studies range from N1 – N6 while Business and Utility Studies range from N4 – N6.

According to the report, the number of graduates from public higher universities more than doubled from 92 874 in 2000 to 203 076 in 2016.

In 2016, the number of graduates from TVET and private colleges stood at 135 492.

The time taken by students to complete their undergraduate qualifications has also improved over time.

However, the higher education system still has challenges in terms of their success rates and poor completion rates.

Many students drop out without completing a qualification, or they take up to six years to complete a three-year qualification.

Very few students progress to advanced NQF levels of study (NQF levels 8–10).

Honours students stood at 19.8%, masters 6.3% and doctoral studies 1.4% of the overall tertiary qualifications awarded in 2016.

According to the report, close to 47% of youth aged 20–24 years who held bachelor degrees or qualifications equivalent to NQF Level 7 came from the highest household income quintile.

In comparison, only 7.4% of youth who held qualifications equivalent to NQF Level 7 came from the lowest household income quintile.

Furthermore, close to 36% of youth holding postgraduate degrees or qualifications equivalent to NQF Levels 8–10 came from the highest household income quintile.

Source African Daily Voice

South Africa: Youth employability a key issue for agri sector

The agriculture sector – which employs just under 1 million people in South Africa according to StatsSA – is crying out for a solution to its youth employability challenge.

This was one of the key takeaways from the Youth Employment Service (YES) participation at the recent CGA Citrus Summit held in Port Elizabeth.

“Lack of viable and sustainable youth employability solutions was a clear issue for all stakeholders,” says Lara Grieve, YES business development manager.

Grieve added: “What was clear from the event was that the agriculture sector is looking for ways to bring a more collaborative approach to the unemployment challenge, bringing government and the commercial players in the agriculture sector together.”

Borne out of the CEO Initiative, YES has become one of the highest impact programs in SA, creating on average nearly 700 work opportunities each week in its first five months.

These opportunities provide unemployed black youth (18 – 35 years old), the chance to access the workforce, gain valuable skills and earn a basic wage. Furthermore, these YES youth are equipped with smartphone devices to learn valuable skills including work readiness, health and safety, financial wellness and more through the YES application. YES also enjoys a strategic partnership with LinkedIn. This means that YES youth can access one of the largest professional networks in the world, and build CVs and references that put them in front of potential future employers.

A further benefit of YES is that it offers attractive benefits to businesses looking to improve their Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) scorecard rating. Qualifying businesses can improve their B-BBEE rating by either 1 or 2 levels by employing and absorbing YES youth, in line with the Practice Note issued in October 2018.

“Agriculture is an important sector for the South African economy,” says YES chief executive Tashmia Ismail-Saville, who points out that there is an over-concentration of youth looking for work opportunities in Gauteng, but finding themselves competing with highly-skilled people for entry-level jobs.

Ismail-Saville says that South Africa would benefit from a decentralized workforce where jobs are created in developing parts of the economy. “By creating employment in the agriculture sector, salaries and skills are retained in these regions, contributing to economic development. If we create 1,000 entry-level jobs in a region such as Limpopo or Nelspruit, we add R42m to the local economy.”

Source Farmers Review Africa

South Africa: Western Cape youth are hungry for change

By Muhammad Khalid Sayed

Time spent electioneering for the ANC in the Western Cape has been a journey into the hearts and minds of the youth who are hungry for an opportunity to walk tall in the new South Africa.

Over the past few months, I have been privileged to be part of the leadership of the ANC Youth League that has been electioneering for the ANC in the Western Cape.

It has been a journey that took us into dwellings that were in informal settlements, townships, rural areas and even middle-class suburbs.

Many of these dwellings were not what one would traditionally call a home. But to its occupants they were home, a place one could view as one’s own space, even if at times there was not a crumb of food, electricity or running water.

The journey through dwellings in the Western Cape to meet young people, view their circumstances, and talk with them about why it was important to register and vote for the ANC on May 8 has been a voyage of discovery.

It was a journey into the hearts and minds of the segment that makes up the biggest part of the South African population: the youth – my constituency, the young ones who one day will be viewed as the older generation.

I was struck by the hunger burning in their eyes. It was not a hunger that said “gimme gimme because I’m entitled to it”. It also was not a hunger that was screaming loudly “we want handouts because the country owes us”.

No, it was a hunger for integrity, self-respect, education and the chance to walk tall in this new South Africa. The youth with whom I had had soul-searching discussions were not part of those who go about bringing educational institutions to a standstill by destroying buildings or blocking access to educational institutions.

The young people I spoke to knew the value of education and were conversant with or open to discussing what drove those young rebels with a cause, such as Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, to add fire to the liberation struggle and form the ANC Youth League.

The example of these firebrands and the story of how they rejuvenated the ANC 75 years ago was appealing. Looking back it was their intervention that ended with Nelson Mandela taking office as the first black president of South Africa.

Today, South Africa is again looking to its youth for inspiration. But a distinction must be drawn between the various youth formations attached to political parties. As the ANC Youth League, we are the true heirs of Lembede, Sisulu, Tambo and Mandela. We carry the hopes, fears and aspirations of our people. We are different from the youth that hang on the words and politics of the divisive Julius Malema and the whinging Mmusi Maimane.

In the Western Cape, the ANC Youth League, aware of the big shoes that we have to fill, is campaigning for a united province, where we will not refer to fellow citizens as refugees, as Helen Zille once did. We are earnest about tackling crime, making our schools safe sites of learning and boosting the participation of youth in business. Youth employment and participation in sport are also important to us.

So, too, is our support for the leader of the ANC and President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. He is our leader and one of the most respected presidents in the history of our glorious movement, South Africa and the globe.

However, he faces a multitude of challenges in steering the ANC in the right direction and also taking the country out of treacherous waters. In May, he’ll be asking the electorate for a mandate for the ANC to govern for another five years. We are behind President Ramaphosa in seeking this mandate. We have his back.

It’s in our interest that South Africa becomes a successful democracy that will fill all of us with hope, confidence and excitement about the future. If we want to continue the recovery we cannot be uninvolved when it comes to politics and elections. Our future is on the line and, like 1944, the Youth League is ready to serve South Africa.

The situation, as we all know, is critical. When President Ramaphosa launched the ANC Election Manifesto he said that we live in a country where, by the broader definition, over nine million South Africans are unemployed. Disturbing for us is that out of every 10 young South Africans, four are neither in employment nor in education and training.

This is a situation that mischief-making politicians are all too willing to exploit. No one could have said it better than the president when he remarked: “This is a tragedy of vast proportions, a direct challenge to the promise of our democratic constitution and the cause of great hardship and despair.”

We have launched our elections manifesto. At the core of our electioneering is a resolve to help the ANC win a decisive majority as called for by President Ramaphosa.

Such a win will give him the mandate to introduce changes that only the ANC can, accelerate the fight against corruption, build a developmental state that puts people first and that also has dedicated public servants who work diligently to improve the lives of the people.

As youth leaders, we commit ourselves to support a skills revolution in South Africa. We applaud the president’s undertaking to open up the doors of learning to all to equip young South Africans for the world of tomorrow. We also praise plans to expand fee-free education for students from poor and working-class backgrounds to cover both first- and second-year students.

The Youth League agrees that a priority for our country is the rights of women and ending discrimination and preventing violence against women and girls. We also call on all South Africans to work together to end gender-based violence and the patriarchal practices that give rise to it.

During my engagements with young people in the Western Cape, I have been made aware, over and over again, that our youth are disgruntled with the DA and want to see the change in the Western Cape.

But anger alone will not bring in the New Dawn in our province. Voting for the ANC will. That is why we are campaigning and urging all young people to vote for the change that President Ramaphosa is promising.

Source Daily Maverick

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