Young South Africans: Voting for ‘a different future’

As support for President Jacob Zuma dwindles, young South Africans reflect on the upcoming local elections.

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"I want my voice to be heard," says Nosipho Khumalo [The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera]

Petroria, South Africa – As political parties prepare to unveil their manifestos for South Africa’s upcoming local elections, a registration campaign was held over the weekend at 22,000 voting stations across the country.

Before the weekend, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said some eight million people still needed to register, 80 percent of whom were under 30.

By the end of the weekend, however, the IEC said three million South Africans had visited polling stations to secure their right to vote.

Although millions of young people failed to vote in the 2014 national election, the upcoming poll is expected to be the most fiercely contested since democracy came to the country.

And with the political situation volatile and support for President Jacob Zuma dwindling, there is much anticipation about the role young people will play in determining the political future of South Africa.

Bhuti Magagula, 29, hotel maintenance worker, Kliptown, Soweto

“I’m hoping for change in my community and livelihood” [The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera] 

“I’m hoping for change in my community and livelihood, so I’ll be voting for that person I know will make it happen. In the past, we’ve voted for people who were struggling with us.

We assumed they’d address our grievances because they’re familiar with them, but they get to the top and forget about the ones that voted them in. These councillors become politically involved and campaign for themselves.

They’ve built houses a walking distance from our shacks and we’ve been waiting three years to get into those houses. They’re vacant, and the councillor is not giving us feedback as to why.

Most residents don’t know the councillor; I just happened to know who she is because two children fell into an open pit. She came to see but the pit is still open today, and has been for four years.”

Sibusiso Magagula, 28, construction worker, Kliptown, Soweto

“It’s the first time we have decided not to vote” [The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera] 

“For the first time in my life, I have decided not to vote. No ward councillor’s work has satisfied me. I don’t even see potential. They say the same thing every time when they’re campaigning, but don’t deliver.

Everything in this ward is racial – coloured people first, then black people last, despite us being the majority. Infrastructure is a problem; I don’t understand how so much money was spent on the Kliptown Square, which doesn’t benefit us at all.

The only thing that would change my mind about voting are developments in my community and opportunities for the youth – especially employment, which would decrease drug abuse and crime.”

Taslima Shah, 23, business assistant, Johannesburg

“I’m registering to vote because I want a different future. Right now in South Africa the situation is very bad – they’re chasing foreigners away. We need one national multicultural country.

We want to be free from crime. I know the councillor, but I want to change my support for someone who can bring change in this community. Immigrants have to deal with a lot and that is really unfair.

My husband is a foreigner and I have found that even if a cop stops you and you’re legal, you have to pay bribes or they threaten to arrest you.”

Lucky Smith, 24, commerce student, Ironsyde, Vereeniging

“The government needs to work on trying to reduce corruption” [The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera] 

“In this area, the lack of development must be addressed first.

This area doesn’t have a school. There’s a clinic, but it’s closed and I don’t think there’s enough medication in there. The issues we are facing in this community is unemployment and gang violence.

The government needs to work more on trying to reduce corruption. For instance, the state’s student loan system, NSFAS, they fund students by means of a loan.

Education is perceived as something that is a public good. If they give it out as a loan, it is not a public good, but a private good. Education builds a better community and a society that has knowledge. It also goes towards the community having a better prospect of employment in the future.”

Kaamil Alli, 21, law student, Johannesburg

“[Only those] who are privileged enough enjoy the fruits of freedom”[The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera] 

“When I was growing up, there was a real fuss made over the ‘born free’ generation, those of us born after our transition to democracy.

A lot was made about the fact that we’ve now entered into a ‘new era’, but as I became more involved at university, I started to realise that there’s a lot more to consider when using this term and questions that I would ponder over as a young boy finally started to be answered.

My opinion is that, like the rainbow nation, ‘born free’ is an idealistic ideal that has no place in our society, as it speaks only to those people who are privileged enough to enjoy the fruits of freedom.”

Sifiso Mdluli, 20, accounting student, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

“It’s our responsability to see the country move forward” [The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera] 

“Braamfontein has a lot of issues with electricity, and lately especially we have a lot of water shortages.

Although Braamfontein is not so bad with becoming more developed – like we have free wi-fi here – I don’t think basic things like effective water and electricity should be neglected.

I think my identity as a ‘born free’ means something after South Africa is liberated.

Even if we didn’t go through the Apartheid struggle, it’s our responsibility to see the country move forward. I see it as an obligation and duty, especially because we have much more access to resources, particularly with technology.”

Avela Boyce, 26, reach stacker operator, South Beach, Durban

“Voting is a very precious culture that is new to the black masses” [The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera] 

“I consider voting a very precious culture that is new to the black masses. I will be voting for better leadership because the leaders we have right now are very weak, both local and national leaders.

South Africa just needs one generation of good leadership so that it can come to its full potential.

People that did not vote should not complain when things go bad because they chose to be voiceless.

I am most concerned about the state of living that some people experience in the city; decent housing should have been a basic for everyone.

The local government should prioritise people that stay in shacks; those people are suffering and everyone is turning a blind eye. They will be voting too, but what will they be voting for? The same people that ignore them?”

“The issue of education is very important to me” [The Daily Vox/Al Jazeera] 

Nosipho Khumalo, 20, student, South Beach, Durban

“I want my voice to be heard. I want to make a change in the area. I will vote for people who prioritise education because I am a walking testimony of how education changes lives; I have seen its power. I wish more schools and less taverns could be built.

The issue of education is very important to me; I wish the government would provide free tertiary education at least so it could be guaranteed that each citizen gets a fair chance at life.

I feel that people in leadership don’t really care about people on the grassroots level; they just sit in their fancy offices waiting for salaries and tenders to come their way.”

Reporting by Aaisha Dadi Patel, Mbali Zwane, Dana da Silva, Qiniso Mbili and Sayneds Hassen.

This article was published in cooperation with The Daily Vox.

Source: Al Jazeera