“As long as many of our people still live in utter poverty, as long as children still live under plastic covers, as long as many of our people are still without jobs, no South African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom.”
“It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.”
In a bid to keep those and more values of South Africa’s first black democratic elected president, Nelson Mandela, North West Activator Thabiso Motlakase and dozens of young people hosted a deepening democracy debate in Schweizer-Reneke in the Ipelegeng Community Centre during election period.
The Schweizer-Reneke panelist debate saw political parties like the African National Congress (ANC), Forum for Service Delivery (S4SD) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as they were trying all they could to lure votes from attendees while the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Congress of the People (COPE) and the African People Convention (APC) dramatically pulled out at the last minute.
The Schweizer-Reneke debate is the brainchild of social literacy and life skills training organization, Mamusa Library Book Club which is led by Tena Kgaswane. The main objective of the Mamusa Book Club is to give a platform and voice to youth who make local government work.
The socio-political navigation strategy which was used by event organizers afforded community members an opportunity to interrogate political parties’ realistic governance plans (as articulated in their manifestos) that speak to immediate basic community needs and the implementation strategy that is in line with the National Development Plan: 2030 vision. The robust discussion also integrated political parties’ ideologies on supporting committed youth leadership structures that seek to influence progressive socio-economic high standards.
Renowned columnist, political analyst and former national head of the IEC’s Information Analysis Department leader, Steven Eli Friedman again applauded youth who make time to discuss important issues like elections. The former head of both the University of Johannesburg and Rhodes University’s Centre for Study of Democracy, Friedman said: “If you look at the figures for participation by young people in our elections, they are high by international standards. So there probably isn’t a way of attracting more young people to the polls.”
Friedman went on to dismiss some of the claims that young people are not interested in top political leadership elections or appointments. “We do not have a youth apathy problem here, so there is nothing which needs to be fixed. Voters everywhere tend to be less interested in municipal elections because they feel much less is at stake. Most tend to believe that important decisions are taken at national level or in the provinces.”
Motlakase lamented opportunistic political parties who only take young people serious during election season and neglect them once they are in power. “Gone are those days where those who can shout unrealistic political slogans are guaranteed votes. So that means all political parties need to have do-able manifestos that speak to people’s needs, not mere rhetoric that rubber stamp selected constituency egos”, he said.
He also rebukes elders who keep on insulting youth intellectual capacity. “The loosely used phrase ‘lost generation’ is one of many age-gap syndromes that need to be addressed. Any society that describes young people as careless and useless needs to help physiological more those it deems lost,” said Motlakase
Motlakase cautioned all South Africans (young and old) to be aware of politicians’ desperate campaigns to divide and rules deceits tactics. Quoting the National Development Plan, the community development activist said that despite our political ideological differences, South Africans are duty bound to always use national legislative guideline documents that will move the country forward. “Our vision is a society where opportunity is not determined by race or birthright; where citizens accept that they have both rights and responsibilities. Most critically, we seek a united, prosperous, non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic South Africa.
All participants receive a DVD copy of all talks and a range of selected articles and reference books that include The National Development Plan, The National Youth Policy, and the Municipal Councilors Handbook.
Motlakase, his colleagues at Mamusa Library Book Club, and Conversation with Men programs will soon be rolled out through the North West province. Mamusa Library Book Club has not yet confirmed the dates, venues, and other logistical issues for future events. All they were willing to confirm is that the following debate topics will be around ways of fixing the South African education system.
Public members who want to participate or are interested in supporting the initiative are encouraged to contact Thabiso Motlakase on firstname.lastname@example.org or 073 750 9221. Alternative communication social platform to follow Twitter: @mamusabookclub or Mamusa Library Book Club on Facebook.