By Nonceba Mhlauli
We have, over the past few weeks of this local government election campaign trail, seen thousands of young people inject much-needed energy into the ANC’s campaign.
Young people have come out in their numbers, raised their hands and said they are ready to serve their communities to improve the state of local governance.
Last week, we saw 25-year-old ANC candidate Boitumelo Thage from Ward 98 in the City of Tshwane read the candidate pledge at the ANC’s candidate roll-call event.
Young people have pledged to do and be better. Our young candidates such as Thage are refreshingly in touch with their communities as they carry the hopes and aspirations of the largest population group of South Africa – the youth.
The nomination of youths was a deliberate decision to send young people with potential to those corridors of power, but more importantly, to a platform where service delivery has been fraught with immeasurable challenges.
They will have to prove themselves in the election involving 325 political parties, with 1 718 independent candidates; 99 116 candidates nominated to contest; 63 409 ward candidates and 35 707 proportional representation candidates.
What kind of young cadre does the ANC and the general community require in this era?
One that prioritises the plight of the people. A cadre who is driven by the desire to deliver services for the people. This is a young cadre who is schooled in the mass democratic movement ethos that despises self-enrichment, cronyism and corruption.
A cohort that will defy the malignant lethargy to serve. They enter the local government sphere at a time when South Africa's municipalities have racked up R26 billion in irregular expenditure, according to the Auditor-General. Worse for the likes of ANC’s youngest candidate, 20-year old Christiaan Carstens from Jeffreys Bay in the DA run Kouga municipality, where the poor black majority are still excluded from access to services.
When we spoke on behalf of young people as the ANC Youth League at the ANC’s manifesto rally, we pledged to rally the youth vote behind the banner of the ANC and further demanded to have 100 youth-led municipalities as our first non-negotiable (condition) as the youth. We further said we wanted youth-focused budgets as a precondition to adoption by councils, and skills and capacity to be a priority when it comes to deployment.
Our demands as the ANC Youth League to the ANC was not oblivious to the reality that we want them to serve in a sector that has had its fair share of negative encounters.
While our detractors may have thought we were setting our young lions up to fail, the contrary is in fact true.
We believe that the hour of youth has struck and that young people will deliver where others may not have succeeded. Their nomination is a sign of confidence in young people of the mass democratic movement. Young people who are the product of an ANC-led government that has over the years provided access to education, access to social welfare, job opportunities and a better life.
We are entrusting them with the responsibility of leading at the coalface of government. We know that they are likely to enter the space battered by a trust deficit between residents and councillors.
And we are aware that the only way to do that is to ensure they work with the people to build better communities.
What are the realities that face young councillors who will be elected on November 1?
Whereas Covid-19 has undoubtedly exacerbated the already unimpressive conditions of life in general, our candidates need to ensure that as a country we recover from this dire situation. The global 4.3% GDP decline was accompanied by job losses that affected mainly women and youth.
Since the pandemic has not been overcome, the local government must be at the centre to encourage and drive vaccination so that our country can quickly reach the desired target levels that will lead to the opening of greater economic opportunities.
It is estimated that prior to the pandemic outbreak, 90% of students in low-income countries, 50% in middle-income countries and 30% in high-income countries dropped out of secondary school without necessary life skills for traversing work and life. This picture reflects a mammoth task that awaits our young councillors to address post the elections.
Nevertheless, the revelation that many potential young voters are not participating in elections due to a lack of confidence in electoral processes should propel our young candidates to make politics appealing to our peers.
Overall, the brief details outlined above depict a scenario that requires the young minds we have put forward to confront and conquer.
It has become apparent that the problem with local government is not necessarily a lack of financial resources, but a lack of management skills and capacity in the human resource area, including in the political divisions of municipalities.
Therefore, our young cadres carry the hopes of not just the youth of South Africa, but the general populace as well. The time for solution-driven councillors is now. The ANCYL’s cry for #moshapalong (youth at the pole) was not just a campaign to
ensure that young people make it to the lists, but a drive to rejuvenate the local government sector with skilled new and energetic minds.
In the ANC, these young candidates have an organisation that has developed policies to ensure that South Africa is reborn. If implemented to the full, those policies will turn around our misfortunes as a country into a land of prosperity.
A vote for the ANC is a vote for renewal and stimulation of the economy.
*Mhlauli is the National Convener of the ANC Youth League National Youth Task Team
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.