Young people must use their votes to make themselves heard

Today is a day to make informed decisions about South Africa’s future, says the writer. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Today is a day to make informed decisions about South Africa’s future, says the writer. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published May 29, 2024


Thilivhali Livhadi

The last census, conducted in 2021, revealed that 63% of South Africa’s population is made up of younger people aged between 15 and 34.

With the voting age being 18 and focusing on the national and provincial government elections this week, naturally, young people have an instrumental role to play in who governs this country.

The face of South African politics does not reflect our demographics.

Young people are shut out of opportunities and are often used as voting fodder. They are a great source of mobilisation and awareness for political parties, but when the time comes for them to occupy decision-making spaces, they are often overlooked.

A lot has been said about “2024 being our 1994”, but who is the “our” being referred to? It is young people.

During voter registration weekend, the IEC reported a surge in new voter registrations, which clearly means that young people are taking an interest in politics and the running of this country.

Registration is commendable, but the youth of this country must come out in numbers to play their role in who will lead the seventh administration post-elections. But showing up at the polls and marking an X has far-reaching implications, and young people must be informed.

By now, the older political parties have all launched their respective manifestos detailing their promises and outlook for the country. Some of the newer political parties that will be contesting elections for the very first time have also laid out their plans for the country.

It is now up to young people to comb through these manifestos and make an informed decision. They know the challenges they face and must choose wisely, as their choice affects how they are tackled going forward. It is a huge responsibility, but one cannot complain without participating.

So, before heading to the polls, young people must examine their challenges. One of them is high unemployment. A lack of job opportunities contributes to the social ills we have become accustomed to. Youth unemployment is currently sitting at 45.5% (ages between 15 and 34), and unfortunately, this includes graduates.

Our economy is failing to absorb young people, and the implications are catastrophic.

These elections, therefore, afford young people an opportunity to take charge of what the future will look like.

This generation cannot afford to feed into youth voter apathy. They cannot afford to contribute to the millions of registered South Africans who fail to show up at the polls. Voter apathy is irresponsible when seeking solutions to how young people can better access business opportunities.

Too often, decisions about young people are made for them without ample consideration and consultation. This can be remedied by coming out in numbers today and choosing political parties that best represent their aspirations.

Voting is an act of responsible citizenry. It involves making an informed choice that will bind the country for the following five years and deciding which matters to prioritise. For the young people of this country, job creation, access to healthcare, and quality education should be a top priority.

They must understand that failure to show up on election day means that decisions will be made for them, as usual. Accordingly, I would like to ask every young person registered and eligible to vote to go out and do so today. Only through the ballot can the youth demonstrate their collective power and decide who will lead this country.

Today is not merely a public holiday. It is a day to make informed decisions about South Africa’s future.

Livhadi is loveLife’s Gauteng Provincial Programmes & Operations Manager.

Cape Times