Looking through history books we see that young people who went into politics were a select few who could be easily manipulated to push the agendas of the older generations; they were used as political pawns in someone else’s game. The desire to run for office for young people in many parts of the world was dead; youth became apathetic, and didn’t care much for politics.
If given enough opportunity how big of an impact would the youth have if they were given an opportunity to run for office? It can’t be disputed that young people are radical in their thinking and approach when bringing new ideas to the fore, this is exactly what brings about the change that South Africa currently needs. “Leaders know the agenda but there is not enough space for them to drive transformation,” Rudzani Mofamate, a ACTIVATE! network member.
Thamsi Dambuza, a member of the ACTIVATE! network also shares, “It’s great seeing more and more young people running for elections. Currently, South Africa needs young minds that can help develop our country.”
She further adds that it is challenge the youth need to take up. “They should not enter the political space just as a voter but they should enter as candidates rallying for office as well. This will inspire the youth to have more of a participatory role in the country.” This is in fact true, young people learn by example and motivated when they see positive role models take a stand. With a young person entering the political space the younger generations feel inspired and develop a growing trust for the government.
This year ACTIVATE! will see some of their own standing for elections, speaking to Tshepang Mokgatla an Activator from Johannesburg shared what motivated him to participate in the elections as a candidate. “I was motivated to stand for the elections because I see a need to build my community. As a young candidate I believe that there is a lot I can share with other youth through my innovative ideas.”
Younger candidates are able to highlight youth issues such as education, training and employment. Fellow youth are put at ease because issues affecting the youth and the greater community. Having youth issues prioritized sees a culture of engagement being encouraged between the government and youth; youth are given the chance to ensure that they have democratic representation.
On this issue Rudzani adds, “The youth can make local government work only if we can take the centre role in political organizations and be given opportunities to occupy leadership positions so that the youth can positively influence change. Standing for elections is the one way that this change can be bought about, we need to be where decisions are made, and independent candidacy is just one avenue the youth can explore.”
Kanyisa Booi, will also be standing for the 2016 elections, “I am a youth participation specialist, and have dedicated a decade of my life to understanding what challenges South African youth face and elevating their voice. As an election candidate I do believe that I can play a bigger role in youth development and ensuring that a better South Africa is created for future generations.”
The youth need a voice, a voice that is going to be heard and work for them, youth participation is essential. The likes of Kanyisa and Tshepang are moving change forward. We are seeing more and more political parties opening up youth branches as a way of embracing youth involvement and encouraging participation. Molatelo Machaba, a member of the ACTIVATE! network is happy to see young people standing in the elections; he however feels “Youth should be involved in all spheres of government from parliament, to the judiciary, and the executive. Youth policies should be amended to include this, and youth platforms should be reviewed to serve the interests of young people.
Gone are the days when a majority of youth was happy to sit back and allow decisions to be made for them, the new Millennials are exploring other ways that they can bring about change for each other. They may still feel distrust towards the government and dissatisfaction at the lack of efficiency; the difference now is that they are working towards solutions. The youth are not to be classified as problem children, but that they are an essential part of the solution when it comes to bringing about transformation in a growing world.