The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has reported almost 3 million registrations for the 2024 national and provincial elections, with youth between the ages of 16 and 29 amounting to 70% of the new registrations.
This comes after several social media trends in the form of hashtags were circulating on all platforms, where young people expressed their hopes for change, as they feel 2024 is the new 1994.
This has given rise to debates on whether or not there is still hope to consolidate SA’s democracy, since more people are willing to participate in the upcoming elections, as compared to the 2019 elections.
In as much as the youth are willing to partake in the elections, there is still scepticism on whether there is a suitable party that can fully represent their needs and bring about change and transformation, more especially among the three leading parties, the ANC, DA and the EFF.
Allowing the ANC to continue leading threatens democratic consolidation as this, instead, strengthens one-party dominance. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the myriad challenges faced by the country will be resolved. This is because the ANC has failed to address challenges ranging from unemployment to poverty and inequality.
The party has been in power for more than two decades but has brought little to no change in the lives of South Africans. Consequently, the living conditions of citizens continue to deteriorate amid countless challenges they are currently experiencing. These include high unemployment rates, skyrocketing rates of crime, gender-based violence (GBV), corruption, lack of service delivery, maladministration, load shedding, and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) debacle.
The latter may lead to thousands of student drop-outs in the 2024 academic year as a result of the budget cuts and alleged corruption. Failure by the ANC to deal with these pressing issues has previously led to the decline of public confidence in the party and politics as a whole.
On the other hand, the DA's prospect as an alternative party could be dashed out by its alien posture on South Africa's domestic and foreign policy. Following Maimane’s departure, the DA adopted the Economic Justice Policy which negates the use of race in addressing the country’s socio-economic development challenges. This restored the party to its traditional conservative stance after years of the two DAs of anti-affirmative action and pro-affirmative action policies.
At the international level, the party has on many occasions defined itself outside the foreign policy position undertaken by the country. In recent times, the DA has lashed out at the SA government for carrying out the non-alignment stance rather than condemning Russia for invading Ukraine.
The DA dismissed South Africa’s peaceful diplomatic mediation and had instead called on the country to condemn Russia in keeping with its commitment to human rights principles. Beyond that, the DA bought into unfounded allegations brought by the US Ambassador that South Africa supported Russia with military weapons. Considering the above, the party’s loyalty is questioned and there is thus great discomfort in South African towards the white-dominated DA. In this regard, South Africans have little or no confidence in allowing DA to lead the country.
Despite having a charismatic leader and championing pro-poor policies, the EFF's prospects of winning the hearts and minds of South Africans may be futile. Among other things, the EFF has been adamant about a borderless SA and the free movement of black people from other African countries. While this is a long-overdue Pan-Africanist stance, it is largely delinked from the realities in the country and across the African continent.
Firstly, the continent is currently under the Union of Africa as opposed to the United States of Africa. The Westphalian system of sovereign and independent states takes precedence across the continent as many states still protect their borders. Arguably, the EFF replicates the DA through taking a stance that is alien to the majority of South Africans. The two parties have vowed to continue with anti-race and borderless policies even if it means losing votes.
As such, a foregone conclusion cannot be made about the outcome of the 2024 general elections. The ANC might retain huge support because some segments of society feel that no politician is better, and no party can fully represent their needs. Last but not least, people might vote on the “better the devil you know” basis.
Considering the above, the prospects that 2024 may be the 1994 for many South Africans are set to be futile. Instead, they should prepare themselves for the national coalition government that will leave the status quo intact. If anything, the power struggle will continue with politicians tussling over the positions, while the economic freedom envisaged by the majority of South Africans excluded from the mainstream economy remains a pipe dream.
Kusekuhle Vumazonke is from the North-West University, Mahikeng Campus. The views expressed here are those of the author, and thus should not be attributed to the author’s institution and the publisher.