ANALYSIS: Why South Africa's youth would rather protest than go to the polls

2019-04-14 07:00
South African students protest outside the parliament precinct before forcing their way through the gates of parliament on October 21, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa. Protesting students broke through the gates of parliament during protests against a proposed hike in tuition fees, this is part of the #FeesMustFall movement. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Jaco Marais)

South African students protest outside the parliament precinct before forcing their way through the gates of parliament on October 21, 2015 in Cape Town, South Africa. Protesting students broke through the gates of parliament during protests against a proposed hike in tuition fees, this is part of the #FeesMustFall movement. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Jaco Marais)

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Young people represent a potentially powerful political force in South Africa. If they all voted, they could fundamentally change the political landscape. People under the age of 29 years old make up 21,4% of the electorate or around nine million people. If they wanted to, they could ensure that political parties and politicians would pay close attention to addressing their concerns.

Unfortunately, young people remain at the margins of politics and despite rhetoric to the contrary, are largely ignored by most political parties.

READ: Ramaphosa cuts a lone figure as he drags ANC to the polls

Of those aged 18 and 19 years old, only 16% registered for this election which is less than half the proportion registered to vote in 2014. A smaller proportion will actually turn out to vote as many people register but still do not turn up at the ballot box.

This situation is not unique to South Africa. Globally, there have been declining proportions of young people partaking in democratic elections. Some analysts mistake this as a sign of young people being apathetic and uninterested in politics. But available evidence suggests otherwise. Internationally, it is an indicator of declining levels of trust in political leaders who are seen to be out of touch with the concerns of the youth.

findings of interviews with over 2 000 young people in all nine provinces in both urban and rural communities. In 2018, additional research with over 200 young people was undertaken to explore whether there were any differences between young men and young women in relation to their involvement in disruptive or violent public protests.

The question remains, what, if anything, will it take for young people to grasp the future into their hands and do the one thing that all political parties care about? That is, making a cross on the ballot paper.

elections logo, elections, iec

Read more on:    student protests  |  youth  |  elections 2019
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