Think-tank Youth Lab launched their 2019 Youth Manifesto, a collection of challenges and solutions to the problems young people face in South Africa, at the Wits Club on 4 October. Compiled through a months-long process in consultation with the country’s youth, the launch of the manifesto was accompanied by discussions and engagements between young people and political party representatives.
The manifesto was created with the voices of young people sharing the issues they face in their communities and where they think the solutions lie. Communities and young people across the socio-economic and geographical landscape of South Africa were consulted in its creation.
According to Youth Lab director Pearl Pillay the launch was well-attended, with guests at the launch including participants from around six provinces who had been involved in the manifesto-making process. For many of the young people present at the launch, political representatives are often people they only see on television. The launch presented young people with an opportunity to directly interact with them.
For the political parties present, they were appreciative of the fact that Youth Lab had managed to reach many communities, especially in the rural areas. While party members did not read the manifesto before the event, they were impressed and gave some positive feedback.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) did not respond to an invitation to the event. Pillay said instead several members of the party’s student command tried to disrupt the event, saying it was taking place in “an elite place”. African National Congress (ANC) representatives included Fasiha Hassan and Member of Parliament (MP) Tasneem Motara, while the Democratic Alliance (DA)â€™s Youth Federal Chair, Luyolo Mphithi, and Mkhuleko Hlengwa from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) were also present.
All three parties who were there are in the midst of their manifesto making process and have- they committed to incorporate The Youth Manifesto their policy-making process.
Mphithi told The Daily Vox in an interview that attending the launch was â€œan amazing experience to see young people trying to determine what the direction that they want this country to go in.â€ Mpithi, who is in charge of youth policy-making in the DA, said â€œone of the main things for me was trying to understand how the manifesto was consolidated and the demands of young people.â€
The launch allowed parties to truly engage with young people outside of prepared speeches and party lines. â€œThe party representatives prepared speeches and brought talking points with them, but most of them actually responded directly to the concerns raised, which was really great,â€ says Pillay.
Youth activism shouldn’t be confined to political spaces. Our issues are beyond this. Every space: churches, business, young people should organise themselves – @MkhulekoHlengwa #SAYouthManifesto pic.twitter.com/6V2184eKxr
â€” Babes WePetition (@Neli_Ngqulana) October 4, 2018
Mphithi says he has met with his party and already brought up many of the issues raised in the manifesto. These include job creation, crime, basic education and substance abuse. â€œWe consistently and constantly say that young people need to take over these spaces and have that seat at the table and also be able to engage constructively at that table.â€
The first priority of Youth Lab is getting the book to as many people as they can, especially those who were involved in the process. The organisation wants people to read and engage with the book. â€œThe main objective is to get political parties to engage with the content and ideas that young people have formulated and put in the book. People say young people are apathetic but that is not true. Just because young people donâ€™t politic the way you expect them to or donâ€™t buy into your brand of politics doesnâ€™t mean young people are apathetic. Itâ€™s about finding ways of engaging young people and meet them where they are,â€ says Pillay.
The book is available at Youth Labâ€™s offices in Rosebank. An electronic copy will soon be made available.
Featured image by Mihlali Ntsabo