Pressing national issues such as corruption and rampant unemployment were among the reasons motivating young South Africans to vote, or stay away from tomorrow’s local
 government elections, a survey released by the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) found.

ISS researcher, Lauren Tracey said young people’s likelihood to participate in elections often depended on their satisfaction with the democracy, the performance of the ruling political party and how problems in their communities were attended to.

“Young people are a very important demographic in the elections and that is why we thought this research study was important to do. In 2014, 25 million people 
registered to vote, out of this 18- to 19-year-old voters made up over 10 million of this number. Our findings illustrate that young people are growing increasingly frustrated with socio-economic challenges that they are facing in their communities. It also shows that young people are not as apathetic as conventional wisdom will lead us to believe.”

Millennial concerns were the burden of unemployment, the inequality that prevailed, not only in education but also the development of rural and urban areas. Tracey said the youth were becoming increasingly conscious of corruption, particularly when it relates to the political elite.

The youth often mentioned corruption scandals such as ‘Guptagate’, which is what they called it, and Nkandla. These young people are critical of the lack of accountability among senior officials and the political elite. They were also cynical of the political leadership in the discussions, whom they saw as power-hungry, manipulative and corrupt. However, there were a few who approved of the corruption and aspired to be like the corrupt 
politicians they referred to, she said.

The youth mentioned how unempowered and how alienated they felt from formal political structures, and that their voices do not matter, so they ask why should they go out and vote.

The study was conducted at 34
 educational institutions – high schools and institutions of higher learning. At least 2 000 young people aged between 18 and 24 were interviewed.

Originally published in the Cape Times on July 27th, 2016.

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