2019 is just a couple of months away, and political parties are already gearing up for next year’s general elections. With the many challenges currently facing South Africa, political parties will have many issues to consider in formulating their manifestos. In preparation for the election, Youth Lab has put together the South African Youth Manifesto. This is a mandate from young South Africans, expressing their views and opinions about the role they want to play in taking the country forward.
South African-based youth policy think tank Youth Lab says that if government doesn’t start prioritising the voices of younger people, they are going to get a shock at the polls in 2019. The organisation works towards mainstream youth participation and policy making, and have compiled the South African Youth Manifesto. Pearl Pillay, Youth Lab director, says they go into communities to equip young people with the kinds of skills they need to improve either on the work that they are already doing or to help to create new initiatives to help young people to contribute to their community development. “The SA Youth Manifesto is a project that was born out of the observation that young people are excluded from the manifesto-making process,” says Pillay.
Pillay says when political parties make their manifestos, it’s usually done by a manifesto committee. This small group of people will meet and decide, informed by broader consultations with the rest of the party. According to Pillay, having a million people – as many voters as the ANC claim to have – making policy resolutions for 55 million people doesn’t make sense. “The mandate shouldn’t just come from members and it should come from broader society,” she says.
Grassroots movements taking place across South Africa, such as the Westbury Protest and the Total Shutdown Against Gender-Based Violence in South Africa, continue to show that many South Africans remain excluded from political processes. However, this is even more evident with young people. “Young people are generally excluded from meaningful engagement particularly around things like politics. From the work that we’ve done, we’ve learnt that young people have a lot to say and they certainly know about the community and country they live and the kinds of solutions they want to see happen,” says Pillay.
Pillay quotes from the South African Youth Manifesto: “Youth are not apathetic, they’re just harassed into silence.” According to her, South African youth are harassed into inactivity in the form of the lack of service delivery that they experience, through watching rampant corruption in communities, and being excluded from political process. “Political culture in SA excludes young people. Young people are saying if they are going to be excluded, they won’t legitimise it with their vote.”
“There is also a sense of not having options which will manifest in the elections where people who are usually informed voting and sitting back and thinking we don’t have that very many political options. They are all different sides of the same coin,”
She thinks the confusion will lead people to not vote, vote carelessly or spoil their votes.
As for next year’s election, Pillay says she thinks young people are going to be crucially important for next year.
“The local government gave us a good foregrounding for 2019 will look like where voter turnout wasn’t as high as it should have been. We saw lots of really big shock losses. I think come next year it’s going to be a lot of the same thing. There might be a lot of shocks but I think in general in terms of voter turnout, we are going to see real changes. The youth bloc is the majority bloc in this country and in our experiences both through this project and organisationally we found that youth aren’t necessarily apathetic,” says Pillay.
“2019 is going to be really telling in that way. I think a lot of people are just not going to pitch up to vote and if we do, we are not going to be voting from a place of innate loyalty anymore. The more parties ignore young people and prioritising issues such as gender-based violence, it’s going to show in the polls.”
Featured image by Gulshan Khan
Authors note: My Vote Counts are not a part of the manifesto. They only hosted a discussion at the launch.