Editorial | Make democracy relevant to young people

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were being treated – by both government and the private sector.  Government has failed to provide them with an education that will arm them with marketable skills. Photo: Mara Mbele
were being treated – by both government and the private sector. Government has failed to provide them with an education that will arm them with marketable skills. Photo: Mara Mbele

VOICES


In the build-up to the local government elections, newspaper columns and social media platforms were awash with comments from young people expressing their anger at how they were being treated – by both government and the private sector.

Government has failed to provide them with an education that will arm them with marketable skills. The private sector has failed to absorb them into the job market. For those who do have an education, the constant refrain is that the economy was so constrained it could not absorb new entrants.

The coronavirus lockdown and incessant power cuts compounded the problem in that even those young people who had taken the initiative to start their own businesses could not operate.

Their anger, therefore, was palpable. Generally, when citizens are angry, they fight back through the ballot box. But our young people could not use this route because, while the polls showed that they were overwhelmingly disenchanted with the governing ANC, there was no apparent and viable alternative.

The DA wasted time messaging around racial politics, in the process losing focus on the desperate needs of the youngsters: mainly education and jobs.

The EFF, which initially resonated with the young people in their challenge of the status quo, has turned into a bunch of buffoons trading on pseudo-radical slogans that do not address the issues. It is therefore no surprise that, as post-election polls indicate, young people stayed away from the voting centres. There was nothing for them to vote for.

This bodes ill for the future if you consider that people aged between 15 and 34 account for almost half of this country’s population. Those over 35 are a fraction of this.

If young people continue to sink deeper into disillusionment and refuse to engage with the democratic process, we have to fear for the future of this country.

They will find other means to make their voices heard, a prospect too ghastly to contemplate. All of us, and not just the political parties, have to make democracy meaningful and relevant to young people.


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