By: Zamayirha Peter
The 2024 General election has the potential to change the course of South Africa’s democracy should young all people take to the poll and exercise their democratic right to vote. The youth vote alone can see the ushering of a new dispensation of South African politics and governance.
A national network of youth leaders, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is gearing up its road to elections campaign by spending the month of June mobilizing young people in their full diversity to register to vote. The call comes after the network of nearly 5000 young people has identified how the low levels of youth participation in South Africa’s democratic elections, is an issue of engagement disconnect caused by the country’s politics being modeled as political persuasions instead of discourse. The network is also planning a national day of demonstration which will see the youth standing at critical intersections of the country, asking the public if South Africa as a nation is truly free.
After 46 years of apartheid and nearly 300 years of colonial and separatist rule, 27 April 1994 signified the end of our nation’s collective long walk to freedom. On the day of the first free and fair elections, nearly 23 million South Africans of all races went to the polls to exercise their right to vote. It is a day that not only marked the emancipation of South Africans from apartheid but also signified the return of their basic human rights in 1994.
There is a common understanding in the country that a liberation struggle was fought so that we all could be free. But what does freedom really mean and has the country realised political and economic liberation and if so who are its beneficiaries when over 30% of the youth form part of the country’s NEET rate (South African youth who are not in education or training), and as of May 2023, 46,5% of youth in 2023 are unemployed, carrying qualifications and skills, yet are without a job or an environment that is conducive (supporting) for young people to embark on their own trajectory to creating job opportunities.
In view of this, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers has responded to this question by reflecting on what it means to live in a democracy 29 years in and if the country has not derailed from the gains made in 1994.
#ThisFreedom is a campaign parcel to the network’s election content. It will be focused on asking ordinary South Africans representing at least three (3) classes and cross-cutting across races, ages, and gender spectrums, online and through a physical demonstration of a stand out in public spaces, what freedom means to them.
Gearing for the 2024 General Elections the network will also be hosting public activations and volunteer days in Kagiso, Johannesburg, Gauteng on Saturday, 3rd of June 2023, in Kwazulu Natal, Ntuzuma on the 16th of June 2023 and lastly on Monday, 29 June 2023 in Limpopo, Lenyenyemeant, and use these activations to register to vote, as many young people as possible and utilise the day to give back to the respective communities old age homes toward the aid of the elderly.
Reflecting on the call to ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Executive Director Tebogo Suping describes the gap identified by the youth network.
“There is a lack of continuous grassroots interaction with young people on issues of policy, governance, and civic matters throughout the electoral cycle. We all have a civic duty to ensure that systems of governance and democracy as they currently exist are understood by the cross-section of the society at large”.
“A particular level of priority and consideration should be vested on the youth demographic whose numbers as counted citizens are disproportionately higher to the numbers reflected in the voter turnout percentages.”
Despite having a youth population of over 60%, the number of young South Africans who participate in voting or other democratic processes is disproportionately lower. The immediate consequence of this to both political parties and the youth (as a large demographic) is the missed opportunity to directly engage young people as the largest constituency and for young voters, a missed opportunity to play an integral part in having a say on who gets to exercise governing power over their interests and the wellbeing of their community/the society they can build to be proud of.
“The participation of young people is a fundamental requirement in the protection of our democracy. With the deepening lack of trust between public institutions and the people, it is important that we inculcate the culture of voting amongst young people, and emphasize this as not only the power/leverage they hold but also the duty they have to build South African democracy.”
“It is also important to educate young people on public policy participation and other civic information tools as decision-making instruments on how to vote and whom to vote for” – Suping adds.
The objective of these activations and demonstrations is to realise the implementation of our commitment to being in the community spaces. We also wish to get authentic stories from communities that are not necessarily documented in mainstream media and encourage young people to go beyond their keyboards where activism is concerned. Our bodies on the road and in visibility as a bridge for citizens makes a difference. – Siphelele Chirwa ACTIVATE! Change Drivers CEO.
Success for the network will be to reaffirm the position of youth in society as change drivers.
“We will measure the success of the call we are making by our ability to be present in communities in June until the 2024 General elections and beyond. We will be here to simply hear their thoughts and contribute to their community-led causes. We will also be using these activations to provide young people a platform to engage in the freedoms our democracy affords us, as young people, we can’t afford to be passive”. – Chirwa ends.
ACTIVATE! Invites all members of society to participate in its June engagements and where possible to make donations and contributions within their capacity.
To join the day of the demonstration or support the initiative contact:
+27 79 248 0754
To join the activations or support the initiative contact:
+27 76 622 856
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