Amandla Ngawethu are words from a young South African ready to cast his vote for the first time in this years pinnacle election. According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa 34% (659,660) of the 18 -19 year old ‘born-frees’ have registered to vote. A question that must be asked is what happened to the other 66%, where are they and why have they chosen not to vote? Life Choices, a Capetonian youth organisation, hit the streets to record the ‘born-frees’ voices.
With the recent negative publicity and media surrounding the main political parties, youth are feeling despondent and questioning who they can trust. Sinothando (18) from Khayelitsha said “the parties are just fighting against each other, I don’t feel that there is any party that represents me and has the best interests of the country at heart”. This was a common feeling amongst youth interviewed. Sinothando continued “I am called a “Born-free” but I don’t feel free. I finished school last year which was a continuous struggle and now I am unemployed. Where is my freedom?”
Mnotho (19) a varsity student said “I am taking a conscious decision not to vote because I want to send a strong message to all parties that more need to be done in making South Africa truly democratic.”
Education, unemployment and safety were some of the key areas where youth felt under-served. With 20 years passed, many felt that we should be much further ahead and the government must be held accountable for this. Not voting is their way of accomplishing this.
Megan (18) a high school student from Athlone said ”Most of my peers will not be voting because they feel disheartened with all the media reports on corruption. They also feel their voices are not heard, so what is the point?”
For those that have registered there was a strong sense of responsibility to make proud those who fought for their freedom. Simphiwe (18) a high school student from Gugulethu said “I feel excited to be part of such an important moment in our country, I am excited to vote and make proud those who died and show that it was not in vein.” Passing the legacy on and keeping the constitution alive is driving some to vote for the first time. They acknowledge the negative publicity, but despite this feel a sense of hope that the country is at least moving in the right direction.
Many are still finding their feet, undecided and confused as to how to choose the right party that will build on the foundations that have been laid already.
Alie (19) a varsity student said “Having the privilege of voting gives us a responsibility but it is hard to grasp what we are voting for. Making an informed choice and distinguishing between the leaders is tough.”
Angie (21) an employed youth concludes by saying “We need something stronger than just voting for a party. We need to start voting for the leader that we believe can run the country. Our ‘future presidents’ should truly be public servants.”
Angie continues by saying “we, the ‘born-frees’, are the new generation of leaders, business owners, doctors and lawyers. Whether we vote or not has a major impact on not just these elections but future elections. If you do not ‘catch us now’ we may decide never to vote.”
The power of the ‘Born-frees’ votes has the potential to change South Africa. As a collective, we have missed the opportunity to inspire them for this coming election!
Amandla Ngawethu … the power is ours … to make that difference for the next election.