Survey shows one in three KZN youths will not bother to vote

2014-03-31 00:00

ONE in three KwaZulu-Natal citizens aged under 34 will not bother to vote, following a dramatic slump in interest from levels recorded just last year.

New research from Pondering Panda shows that most potential voters say they’ll stay away from the polls not because of apathy but because they don’t think their vote makes any difference — in what researchers called “an alarming level of cynicism”.

Last week, The Witness chose a small business at random in Durban North, and asked the election day plans of everyone who walked through the door over lunch hour.

All seven people who showed up at Suburban Motors had pressing needs for government action — from university subsidies to safety and minority rights — and one was even a relative, by marriage, of Mac Maharaj.

But not a single one of them thought their vote could make any difference — and only one will bother to go to a polling station on May 7.

And that person, workshop manager Marcy Govender (34) declared, “I will be writing my own name on the ballot and writing an x next to it — I have to do everything for myself, so I am going to vote for myself.”

Zakhele Ndlovu, of the UKZN politics department, said the stunning political cynicism among the good citizens at Suburban Motors could also be found at businesses, churches and braais around KZN.

“With things like the Nkandla scandal, and the mess they saw with Mamphela Ramphele and the DA — and especially with the ANC’s continued dominant support no-matter-what — voters are very, very cynical right now,” said Ndlovu. “New parties tend to raise interest, but the EFF does not have the credibility that Cope had when it formed. There is not even an appetite to vote for ‘the lesser devil’, as you see in the U.S.”

In a survey by Pondering Panda last year, 82% of 430 KZN residents said they did not trust politicians. Researcher Johan van der Merwe told The Witness that those not planning to vote had risen “alarmingly” in just 10 months — from 23% in July last year to 29% in January and up to 35% this month. He said 31% of potential KZN voters between 18 and 34 years old indicated they would not vote — although 87% of registered voters still planned to cast their ballots. 54% of those who won’t vote indicated they would stay away because “I don’t believe my vote will make a difference”.

Govender added, “No politician has done

anything for us; and I get nothing back for the taxes and rates I pay. I am now paying as much for lights and water as I pay for my [house] bond, which is unacceptable.”

Prem Manalal (51), a business consultant visiting the Suburban Motors, said he had voted for the ANC in 1994. “What a mistake that was — I helped make Zuma rich,” said Manalal. “I voted DA last time, very reluctantly — but they have no power in KZN, and their manifesto just says they’ll do things better than the ANC, but they don’t say how.

“Voters who really care about good governance and issues know there is a critical mass of people who have been brainwashed into believing that the ANC will give them better lives, and that their own vote will make no difference. My son is studying chemical engineering and my daughter is doing her masters degree, and I have advised both to get on the first flight overseas when they graduate. If Trevor Manuel joined forces with [Helen] Zille then maybe I’d get interested again.”

The office manager at Suburban Motors, Reshma Naicker (34), is a single mother of two who, on her own, is paying R36 000 in university and school fees.

“My main issue would be the cost of education. It has gone out of control, and we cannot get any subsidies or bursaries; I was told we weren’t black enough to qualify,” said Naicker.

She said her son planned to move to New York after graduating.

Naicker said she would spend election day in a game reserve.

Wandering in to the office to eat his sandwich, Charles Abraham — cousin of the owner, Cliff Henry — said he had not only lost faith in politicians, but even in some of his fellow South Africans.

“I only employ Malawians; they’re a godsend for small businesses,” he said, referring to his construction business. “I’m sorry — I just don’t trust local guys to be honest, and that applies to everyone asking for my vote.”

Abraham said he was enraged by police “inaction” against illegal electricity thefts around Durban — but that he preferred “channels” other than the vote to pressure the city into acting.

“They say one vote can make a difference, but the reality is that it never has in South Africa, so why should I bother?”

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