FEATURE: There’s an old cliche which says that youth are the future and have the power to affect great change in their home country. We saw this in the Middle East, swept by a wave of protests called the Arab Spring. On our home turf, it was the turn of South African youth to take back their power, when students at universities across the country, took to the street to protest against rising tuition fees at their campuses and won that battle.
In recent years, the University of Cape Town (UCT) has been plagued by many protests and last year the university saw one of the largest student protests since the 1976 Soweto uprising as well as the toppling of the Rhodes statue.
Despite the challenges of South African youth firmly placed on the national agenda, many youth today are so disengaged from politics that they have given up on their right to vote. VOC News went to speak to some of the more actively engaged in politics and student body activities youth on campus to find out their sentiments, regards the upcoming elections.
Youth disconnect from politics
Fowzia Davids, International relations student
“I think UCT is where the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall kind of started as well as at Wits University. I don’t think that youth are overly engaged or disengaged in politics. I just think that some people are active and others are not.
The youth however, are definitely changing politics you can see that at a national level where students have been changing fee increases there were no fee increases.
UCT has gone to lengths to change policy like the naming of buildings to name but one example. All over South Africa there have been massive changes at universities so I think that the youth have a strong stake and can affect the way South Africa is going.
I am registered to vote, I voted in the national elections but I’m not sure if I will be participating in the upcoming elections. I might just go and vote and spoil my ballot and not vote for anyone because I don’t think that I am happy with the three main parties namely the DA, the EFF and the ANC.
For me the EFF focuses on political rhetoric way too much and I don’t think their plans are concrete enough. Whereas the DA, I think that they cater to a certain audience majority of the time and I think they focus on a lot of superficial issues. So I do not know if I want to put my vote anywhere that I don’t see enough systemic change happening.
I think nationally the ANC has also been very problematic they have made some terrible decisions under Jacob Zuma. I feel like power is too solidified with Jacob Zuma and his friends and there have been so many service delivery protests across the country so I don’t think that the ANC has a clean sheet at all
So I’d rather make the decision not to vote than to vote for someone who I feel won’t make a strong enough of a change.”
Post 94 struggles of (today’s) youth
Aisha Humdulay, Internal relations and environmental science student
“Post ‘94 struggles are actually very evident now and I think that these movements like Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall those are part of post ‘94 struggles because even though apartheid is over the effects of apartheid aren’t over.
It will take a long before the effects of Apartheid are completely reversed and the effects run deeply and widely. For example with issues like before people even come to university like if they don’t have a bursary then they cannot afford to come to university that’s an effect of Apartheid.
So apartheid may be over, but economic apartheid is not over and economic apartheid exists because of racial apartheid. Thus is will take a while to undo the structures that were born because of apartheid.”
Youth need to vote
Yasseen Hassem, accounting student
“If you look at the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, only 70-75% of people voted so would there have been a difference if everyone voted. In South Africa I do think that every vote counts in a sense because if we do want to get all these smaller political parties up and something different in the country and we need to finds ways to get them in somehow. If only 60-70% of the country is voting then most of the votes are going to go to the top three parties and if more people vote then it will level the playing field somehow.
Changes need to be made from the ground level up, even though hundreds of millions are put into education every year we are not seeing the effects of these changes so proper structural changes must be made to the education system to educate and empower youth in all communities.” VOC (Umarah Hartley)