The advent of democracy in South Africa marshalled with it a plethora of challenges. This ranged, on the one hand, the liberation movement shifting from an adversarial underground operation towards the government — to that of actually assuming the responsibility of government, and on the other hand, the majority of white South Africans getting used to a black government.

Amongst these challenges is the competence of the current political dispensation to sustain participation of all South Africans in determining their government through elections.

This year citizens of this country will be called upon to cast their votes, and already, most young South Africans have declared their non-participation.

In doing so, they contend, that they make a statement to the politicians that their needs are not taken seriously. The YCL would like to explore the reasons why young people are, apparently, not dedicated to participate in the elections and would, through our campaigns and this article being the landmark, persuade them to participate.

Beyond doubt, of the 35% unemployed, 55% of those are young people. Of the top South African earners, a small percentage are young people. The majority of young people are faced with the hardships of ardent poverty, with those who are employed, mostly falling in the retail and commercial sector, and are casual workers.

The participation of youth in the economy is limited by the extent to which the economy is able to create jobs and absorb them.

Young people of any society, including here at home, have needs, aspirations, dreams, goals and desires. Young people are also energetic, they explore and ask questions, they are spontaneous in their reaction to a whole range of occurrences in society.

These needs and energies are served by various forces including the market and politicians. As voting in a national election determines the political leadership, what then becomes the means of remonstration against economists and businessmen whose responsibility is key in investing and creating jobs?

In refusing to participate in the elections, would young people have their interests served?

What is the value of participating in elections whilst you would even be hungry on the queue towards casting your vote?

This and many questions require some response on the part of young people.

Some of the arguments that young people advance in their lack of interest not to vote are:

  • Politics are not relevant to their lives and that all they want is a beautiful car, a mansion for a house, food and a lot of investments which will grow them proceeds, and political is unable to provide this for them,
  • Politics is boring and that its time has past,
  • The government has not done this or that for me so why should I vote,
  • All that politicians do is to talk in a very confusing way so as we will vote for them,
  • There is no political party that I can vote for-etc
    These and many other reasons are advanced by not only youth but adults, who claim to be dissatisfied with the government.

The instant that citizens of any country cease to determine their government is in that instant that the dictatorship of the few parliamentary elite comes into the picture.

We will not hold accountable any parliamentarian who take decisions and pass laws on our behalf because they were not elected by us.

Let us look into some of the few question raised by youth and other sections of the society who claims that they would not vote:


Since 1994 most jobs have been lost than created. Granted. But not voting does not mean more jobs, in fact it might mean more jobs being lost. It is not the sole responsibility of the governments to create jobs, but also the responsibility of the big capitalist bosses, who see labour intensive programmes as a loss of profits.

Despite training, educating and skilling people to prepare them for jobs; despite putting in place flexible labour laws; despite reducing tariffs and creating an investor friendly environment; despite keeping the interest rate as reasonably low as possible; and despite putting all the fundamentals at place; there is not much that a democratic government like ours can do to encourage and stimulate capital to create jobs.

The government equally, on its own accord, invested a lot of resource through public works programmes and the public service, created jobs. The ANC Manifesto announced a R1 billion job creation through the Public Works Programme in its Manifesto. This signifies a major move towards the role that the state plays in creating jobs.

There are however problems which were met in the past, and which both COSATU and the SACP fought. This ranges from the privatisation of parastatals to the creation of a lean and mean state service component, but in all, the state has played its part.

Most political parties, however ambitious and ridiculous some have been, make certain promises, some of them unachievable, in addressing the problem of unemployement.

Surely, young people should be able to find resonance with one of the political parties, and the YCL believes that the ANC Manifesto provides for the needs of young people

Poverty Alleviation

Since time immemorial South Africa, like all other societies, has been divided into two social classes based on race, rich, opulent and white on the one hand; and poor, impoverished and black on the other.

The 1994 democratic breakthrough, led by the ANC government, sought to address and has to a certain extent succeeded in reversing the Apartheid backlog.

There are millions of South Africans who received houses, clean water, electricity, telephone lines, increased pensions and social grants, free compulsory education, free basic health care and child support grants.
These and many more are part of the things that have been delivered by our government in reversing the blitz of poverty.

As the YCL we believe that more and more Young people have directly and indirectly benefited from this expanded effort of our government.

The ANC, the leading party in government, acknowledges that a lot more should be done and that it will hasten in advancing this services.

We should, as young people be able to identify parties that will deliver more than this, if we believe there is anybody who can do better than this.

Politicians are not listening to us.

The South African democracy allows only parties that has a constituency to participate in the elections. This means that as young people, we can participate in those political parties and determine what they say and how they should represent us in parliament.

Politics is about social discourse, social interaction and determination of public policy. It was not meant to be boring, until maybe when Gatsha Buthelezi joined it.

But as the ‘old people’ in parliament retires, the task will be upon us to determine public policy in the future. The YCL believes that without young people participating directly today, we will leave our future in wrong hands.

The reason why, for instance, George Bush is able to attack Afghanistan and Iraq unilaterally without the support of Americans in precisely because the American society has neglected its responsibility and power into its hands.

In protection of our democracy, their future and our will, as young people we should participate in the current elections. The will lies in us. Thus, as the YCL, together with the ANC, COSATU and SACP Alliance and involving all citizens of the country, we will conquer.

Buti Manamela