By Prince Charles
Greek statesman Pericles while speaking in Athens in the fifth century once said “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics will not take an interest in you.” This was the opening theme for the ‘political force’ breakaway session at the national Imbizo held in the North West over the weekend. The main aim of the Imbizo was to craft a sustainable, cohesive and impactful network in order to build an economic, social and a political force within the network. Therefore the breakaway session was preoccupied with how the network engages with politics which Pericles argues have an interest in us and at the same time crafting a common vision amongst Activators. The session aimed to reach these by allowing Activators to firstly vision where they see South Africa politically in the next five years while juxtaposing that with how the present situation is and what the network needs to do in order to make a change.
The participants of the session were a diverse and politically heterogeneous group, which was in sync with an earlier warning by DG Murray Trust CEO David Harrison who cautioned against the creation of echo chambers in networks, emphasising that the power of progressive networks lie in the different views held by members. Asked on where they envision South Africa politically participants offered rather interesting contributions which were not the typical generic responses one usually gets, Cape Town based Activator Luzuko Melaphi made it abundantly clear that the creation of a youth political party cannot be a pipe dream forever; Democracy Development Program’s Brian Mhlongo said he envisioned a South Africa where the voter’s roll resembled the demographics of the country because it currently doesn’t and also he envisioned a country where youth leagues will be unnecessary because it was the youth leagues he argued that were keeping youth issues on the periphery of politics.
Quizzed on what were the stumbling blocks in the achievement of this political vision, Port Elizabeth based Activator Zikhona decried the lack of political and civic education, while others pointed to what they termed ‘conferred power’ because in South Africa they argue young people need to be recognised before their views are taken into cognisance; youth leagues need mother bodies to recognise them while in the corporate space youth need white people to recognise them before any of their ideas are consider. However even after that recognition one will still need money and resources for mobilisation, all in all the power dynamics and odds are tilted against young people.
On crafting a way forward and what needed to be done Activators were in agreement that the time to only speak out in facilitated spaces was over, it was time to take that which is online offline and vice versa. Durban Activator Thobani Zikalala called for the end of ageist politics were the only thing that united young people was age, it needs to be ideas and consensus on what the status quo actually he argued. Zikalala echoed the view that whoever wants change society must be organised but criticised South African youth for not being organised but labelled them as a mobilised grouping. Bongi Ndlovu closed off the session after capturing all the views and urged the conversation be circulated to the network for input.