Early in 2014, perhaps the biggest narrative brewing in the underbelly of South Africa’s political consciousness was how South Africa’s politically untested youth demographic would vote. It was all the rage. Spurning headline upon headline. Dubbed “the bornfrees,” the mainstream media’s coverage of the 18-35 year old voter in early 2014 was as conflicted as it was lacking in nuance. Widely expected to shift SA voting patterns forever, young people were also expected…well…not to vote. Pundits on newscasts and newspaper columns expounded on how different parties would and should, jostle for the young vote – as the largest demographic in the nation. This wrought the question: will ‘born-frees’ – in fact – change SA politics?
Two months before the elections, in an article titled, “Will Born Frees Change SA Politics?” Lee Molefi deconstructed the idea further here —>
“Is it even fair for young people to be bundled into a single group and referred to as though we were uniform thinkers with the same challenges, attitudes, ambitions and ideas? I don’t think so – which leads me to believe that the entire “born-free” generation thing is an unfair, misleading gimmick dreamt up by an over-excited producer pitching a documentary to one of the major broadcasters circa 2004. SA’s young people, who make up nearly 70% of the population, are ultimately individuals with a unique set of norms, outlooks and challenges & this must be appreciated as such in order for us to grasp the leadership and strength of character that is required for us to truly change SA’s national condition for the better.
Is it presumptuous to think young people will change SA? No, comrade. Is it presumptuous to think we’ll change things for the better? Yes. It’s true, as the world continually changes, young people in their many guises, ages, circumstances and political outlooks WILL change the political landscape in one of two key ways – through voting as the electorate and/or via active party-political participation- as media, politicians and captains of private industry.
So is the hype about SA’s young justified? Kinda.
I do believe young people will change SA for the better, but not as cynical 50-year old versions of our former selves in 2044, nor by being politically correct “born-frees”. We, you see, have to completely reject the born-free thing and become individuals. Then we need to start to working at changing SA NOW. Today. Why? Simple. Youthful qualities – ambition, idealism, innovation, brevity, aggression, passion, raw need, NAIVETY and the propensity to screw up are what will get us to truly change South Africa politics – for the better.”
Check out the story, published on March 19 2014, here —> will-born-frees-change-sa-politics/
So for added perspective and without the presumption that young people are homogenous in their thinking, Mandy Mbekeni interviewed two young people from Cape Pensinsula University of Technology about whether they’d be voting in the elections and what informs their thinking when May Day came around. Here’s an excerpt —>
LIVE: Have you registered to vote?
Nathi Mtiti: Yes.
Lutho Mhlontlo: Yes
LIVE: Who will you be voting for in the upcoming elections?
NM: That question is still very sensitive because there’s a lot of things that have transpired politically. I feel in order for me to vote, a certain party has to earn my vote. I’m not willing to give people my vote if they don’t truly deserve it. That’s just my opinion.
LM: I’ll be voting for the ANC because I support their constitution, policy, and their manifesto that’s being represented to the nation. And the issues that concern the youth.
Check out more on this interview here —> /youth-elections-politics/
So, as expected, May 7 2014 ultimately came around. By 7am that morning the inked-thumb selfies began to surface and election day officially commenced. Many young people went – often for the first time – to go vote. Onele went to different polling stations in Cape Town to find out how some young people were soaking up the experience.
Check out Onele’s photo essay here —> /born-frees-have-their-say-at-elections/
With May 7 now a memory inching smaller in size on our proverbial rearview mirror, it was time to reflect. After all was said, done and undone, did the youth vote have the massive earth-shattering effect widely expected? Kay Selisho reflected on this in her article: #Election2014 and ZA Youth: Did We F&*K It Up? Here’s an excerpt –>
The topic of many a campaign speech, “youth” was a term thrown around almost as much as “20 years of democracy” has been this year. Targeted mainly because we make up the majority, our ‘x’ was highly coveted this past May. Stats aside, there are A LOT of people under the age of 30 in South Africa. Many of them had registered to vote and this race (the election race) is always about the numbers. Conversely, there are people who are old enough to vote but simply choose to stay away on election day. That number has grown since 1994 and now counts millions of South Africans. Out of the 25 Million people registered to vote; just over 18 million showed up and voted while 252 274 spoiled their ballots. Seeing as we can only tell how many people registered, we can never really know where the youth vote went.
Read Kay’s full article here —> http://livemag.co.za/fk/
What do you think of the youth’s role in this year’s elections? Did we contribute enough? did we contribute at all? Can we be accurate when grouped as a collective in this regard?
Tell us. #LiveVIPZA
The #2014Elections has set an exciting and vibrant context for the future of South Africa politics to unfold upon. What happens now that you’ve voted? How do we gauge whether we’re “moving the country forward”, whether we’re “bringing change” or “economic freedom in our lifetime”? Stick with #LiveVIPZA and we’ll give you analysis, debates, comments, polls and all YOU need to understand, enjoy and interact with SA politics.