Writer: Jes Edgson and Solomzi Mtengwane
It seems all we ever get hear about politics and the youth is Julius Malema and not much else. How can the youth participate in national politics? How can they make their voices heard? What channels are open?
To get some answers to these questions writers Jes Edgson and Solomzi Mtengwane decided to shoot the breeze with the youth league representatives from the biggest parties represented in parliament.
As the youth of today we represent the future of South Africa. In two years’ time, in 2014, we will line up with the rest of the country to vote for the party that will lead us for the next five years. For some of us, this will be our first ever visit to the polls as registered voters. By then, we will have heard all the political party sales pitches and promises of hope through all forms of media and spin doctors.
The problem though with most politicians is that they’re not accessible to us; they tend to speak over our heads to an older constituency. That’s why most parties have Youth Leagues, a subsidiary of the organisation mandated with giving a voice to the issues affecting the youth. They should have our fights in their hearts.
To find out more, Live decided to speak to youth league representatives from the four biggest parties represented in parliament: African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Congress of the People (COPE), and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). Unfortunately, although numerous attempts were made to contact the ANC Youth League, they failed to respond to us before our print deadline. (To find out more information about the ANC YL you can visit : (www.ancyl.org.za)
Inkatha Freedom Party Youth Brigade
To start, we chatted with Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the National Chairperson of the IFP Youth Brigade. “The IFP is about [the] youth, and exists to serve South Africans in the spirit of ubuntu/botho,” he said. He added that the youth must actively get involved in confronting society’s challenges and not be content with standing on the sidelines.
“Our involvement must not be confined to elections only, but rather we should actively participate on a day-to-day basis so that we form part of the decision making processes, and the developmental discourse”.
According to Hlengwa, the two biggest issues facing the youth are unemployment and education. To counter the education problem previously disadvantaged schools need to have access to better resources, and teachers need to be kept up to speed with changes in the curriculum. Regarding unemployment, Hlengwa says there is a need for government and business to work together to create sustainable employment for the youth; and government must develop infrastructure that aids economic growth and job creation.
Their message: “our collective involvement will result in a collective ownership of the nation and its dreams, hopes and aspirations”.
Democratic Alliance Youth League
Next on our list was the youth wing of the main opposition party, the DA; we caught up with the chairperson, Mbali Ntuli. Much like her IFP counterpart, Ntuli believes the youth need to be more politically aware, as we are most likely to bear the brunt of societal issues like crime, poor health and unemployment.
The scourge of joblessness, Mbali says, is without doubt the biggest problem for the youth. “Unemployment is affecting our youth across all different sectors – it’s urban youth, rural youth, township youth, youth that are graduates, youth that have just matriculated, youth with no experience [or] youth with experience – it doesn’t matter, that’s the biggest crisis we have in our country.”
As a solution, the young lions of the DA are backing the idea of a youth wage subsidy. A subsidy given to employers who hire and train inexperienced youth, it would work as an incentive for employers to give jobs to young people.
Their promise: “we will keep on championing the causes of the youth that we think are ones that will give all young people in South Africa opportunities to create their own futures”.
Congress of the People Youth Movement
“We promise a viable practical youth alternative to all young South Africans” said the next leader we interviewed, Nqaba Bhanga president of the COPE youth movement, before adding; “join our youth party”.
Bhanga believes that we need to create a society with equal opportunities in order to create a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous country. To that end, the COPE youth movement wants to establish a platform where all the political youth organisations can get together to discuss pressing matters affecting the youth.
According to Bhanga, one of the biggest issues in SA today is the uneven distribution of opportunities across race, class and gender lines. “Economies of the future require diversifying the economy – producing secondary and tertiary goods – this implies more investment in skills and education”. We need a clear education policy, vision and consistency of policy choices, he said.
Their motto: “all youth to the frontline.”
So there you have it. These are the political voices that speak to the youth and that will canvass for your vote in 2014. Get involved, stay informed and make an impact.