According to a survey released by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), pressing national issues such as corruption and rampant unemployment were among the issuesmotivating young South Africans to vote, or stay away from next week’s local government elections.
ISS researcher Lauren Tracey said young people’s likelihood to participate in elections often depended on their satisfaction with the democracy, the performance of the ruling political party and how problems in their communities were attended to.
“Young people are a very important demographic in the elections, and that is why we thought this research study was important to do. In 2014, 25 million people registered to vote, out of this, 18 to 19-year-old voters made up over 10 million of this number,” she said.
“Our findings illustrate that young people are growing increasingly frustrated with socio-economic challenges that they are facing in their communities, it also shows that young people are not as apathetic as conventional wisdom will lead us to believe.”
The youth’s concerns were the burden of unemployment and the inequality that prevailed, not only in education, but also the development of rural and urban areas.
“In South Africa we see how marginalised groups, particularly young people, are now turning to protests and demonstrations to get their views heard and concerns addressed. This was evident in 2015 RhodesMustFall, and later on the FeesMustFall protest.”
She said the youth were becoming increasingly conscious of corruption, “particularly when it relates to the political elite”.
“They often mentioned corruption scandals such as ‘Guptagate’ which is what they called it, and ‘Nkandla’. These young people are critical of the lack of accountability among senior officials and the political elite. They were also cynical of the political leadership in the discussions, whom they saw as power hungry, manipulative and corrupt,” said Tracey.
However, there were a few who approved of the corruption and aspired to be like the corrupt politicians they referred to, she said.
“They commonly agreed that the positive role elections played was being significantly eroded by issues of corruption. Young people seem to be increasingly losing trust in the country’s leaders. Even though they identified voting as important, for some, they do not see that making a difference in their lives and that of their parents.
“They mentioned how unempowered and how alienated they felt from formal political structures, and that their voices do not matter, so they ask why should they go out and vote.”
The study was conducted at 34 educational institutions – high schools and institutions of higher learning. At least 2 000 young people aged between 18 and 24 were interviewed.
– African News Agency (ANA)