Saturday, 8 November 2008

Rock the Vote!

It's voter registration weekend in SA. The Independent Electoral Commission says that something like only a third of young South Africans are registered to vote. This is obviously a problem but probably not hugely surprising that youth feel disempowered. In this country, the biggest silent discrimination is against the youth. Young adults are disregarded. It's almost impossible to get elected to any position of authority or to be appointed to one, for that matter, not because the voters won't elect you but because the party won't let you stand. And that's true of all the major parties. The youth don't vote. One of the reasons they don't vote is because they have noone to vote for with whom they can identify.

The recent US election brought millions of young people to the polls. The IEC in South Africa hopes that the US election extravaganza, the 'greatest show on earth' will mobilize youth. It would be great if it did. Unfortunately, even if they register, getting them to the polls would probably require having someone they can identify with for whom they can vote - someone young, intelligent, savvy, classy (so Obama, not Malema). The president of the ANC stood up yesterday and said that the head of the ANC youth league - who really isn't that young - is too immature to choose his own words and is still being trained. A while ago in a debate I argued that the ANC youth league should be disbanded because youth issues are not the sideline issues of a minority group that need special protection; they are the majority. I'm starting to think that's the only way forward. It irritates and frustrates and infuriates me that in this country the people are young (overwhelmingly), the journalists and analysts are young but the politicians, the 'leaders' are old. And yes, as Bruno comments in the West Wing, it's ridiculous that a group which is a majority hasn't taken control but I think the youth in SA feel completely hamstrung by the system - the don't think they can do anything about it. And they might be right - the problem is probably structural and systematic.

Perhaps Obama winning will motivate the youth to take back the power. And perhaps the COP will take control and give the power back to ordinary people by changing our election system. I hope the youth register today. South Africa has spent too long being controlled by people who live in the past. It's time to take back our future.


  1. So did you register, or were you already registered?

    I think a lot more young people registered this year (it's worth watching the press tomorrow to see what the IEC's final tallies are - it'd make for a good follow-up post, I think?)

    But ja, I agree with you - for disenfranchised, largely poor and working class youths, there's not much to vote for. I'm not sure COP is the answer - and that name may not stand, hey, because the ANC has announced that it'll take legal action against the new party for trying to use the name! Maybe we should start a party? Gay rights, animal rights, no room for stupid people, women's rights, smart economic policies and minimal rhetoric...(I totally get to be CJ).

  2. I am already but unfortunately I won't be around to vote in this particular round. Will definitely be interesting to see youth registration figures.

    Starting a party sounds fun. I am seriously staring to think that professional politics is the way to go. Not sure about the minimal rhetoric though - we are debaters, after all ... and that would really take all the fun out of it :p

    Oh, and you'd have to fight Sandra for CJ :)