April 1994, people of all races flocked to the voting station. The results of these elections marked an era of change and optimism for not only the South African people, but also the growth of democracy. However, with under 30’s making up only 24% of the total registered voters in the 2016 municipal elections, we see the youth has a growing distrust in our newly developed “democracy”.
It has been 22 years since our parents voted for change in the political and socio-economic climate, yet we still watch as they wait for the benefits they were promised. According to an article done by AlJazeera: the reason most “Born-Frees” aren’t rushing to the voting polls is because they believe their voice won’t change much within the political context. This is far removed from the youth involvement seen during the Apartheid struggle.
This does not mean the youth are failing to uphold their democratic responsibilities. Earlier this year, IEC chairperson, Glen Mashini stated “…every citizen in South Africa has the patriotic responsibility to vote.” Also mentioned was how the IEC would be focusing on getting more of the youth to partake in the voting process. He feels this is important, enabling the youth to get their will across in the political process.
However, more recently youth have been seen making their voices heard through the use of protest and social media campaigns. This idea is not unfounded, given the fact even this year marked ballot papers were found discarded in an IEC tent at Nelson Mandela Bay. “It’s disgusting. It’s just disgusting. Win an election fair and square, don’t do it through cheating. You don’t undermine our democracy like this,” was the response of a Congress of the People (COPE) official inside the tent where these ballot papers were found.
Therefore, the youth take to the streets and the internet to make their voices heard. The #FeesMustFall movement shows how the youth continually criticize the government and current political systems through the act of protesting. Although the South African Constitution is believed to be one of the best in the world, the use of violent police involvement, and an interdict, highlight its flaws. Through this and the recent SABC saga – where journalists are still being restricted from reporting on protests and violence – it can be seen the Constitution is being systematically ignored to benefit the current government.
Our political responsibility is not to vote for parties who offer little-to-no solutions to problems most continue to face daily, but rather to criticize the government. And currently what we can assume most of the youth are saying with regards to the political process is; “Change your system before expecting us to participate in it.”
Photo taken by Jomiro Eming