That is the view of youth leaders from different political organisations, as the country prepares to commemorate June 16 on Sunday.
Statistics released by the Independent Electoral Commission showed that a large number of young citizens either did not register or did not vote in the May 8 general elections.
It is estimated that only 18% of people aged 18 to 20 registered to vote.
The reason, some parties said, was because many young people could not relate to the political dispensation.
DA youth leader Luyolo Mphithi said youth voter apathy was a worldwide phenomenon but “what gives us comfort is what we saw in the DA - that young people are participating in politics, with many people under 35 taking leadership positions”.
IFP Youth Brigade (IFPYB) convener in Durban Mncedisi Nxumalo said the youth that led the protest on June 16 1976 showed what could be achieved when young people put aside politics and pursued a common objective.
He said today’s youth were not living up to that dream and were squandering rare opportunities and failing themselves at key moments that had the potential to change their lives.
Young people that had the opportunity to study were not taking up that opportunity. Deciding not to vote also represented a wasted opportunity, and many of those who did not vote were the first to complain when things did not go their way.
“In the IFPYB we have a slogan, ‘nothing about us without us’, and that is why we believe that change for the youth will only come about when they take a real lead in addressing their affairs,” said Nxumalo.
ANC Youth League provincial spokesperson Mandla Shange said there was a need for voter education.
“It is very sad when young people see voting and think that it is just an event whereas it’s a very important democratic thing they need to participate in. Some have a lot of issues that they are concerned about like unemployment, education and other issues, and they used that as an excuse for not voting.
“We need to change strategies as political parties. We need to create role-models for young people. We need to have a young leader leading in the front and urging the youth to vote. Our manifesto must target the youth especially,” he said.