Cape Town, January 10 2019 – The National Council of Provinces has passed the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, with 65 MPs supporting it and no abstentions. The bill makes it illegal for public funds to be used for political campaigning. Courtesy #Dstv403
For a group of people largely labelled apathetic, the youth in attendance at a debate on a Tuesday morning, braving the temperamental and rainy Joburg weather – were anything but apathetic.
Yesterday (Tuesday March 11, 2014), JoziHub in Milpark was the venue for the To Vote or not to Vote debate aimed at so-called ‘born-frees’.
Bornfrees stand up
There is a particular fascination with this year’s youth vote as this year the “born-free” generation, children born in 1994, when South Africa became a democracy, will vote for the first time. How they vote and who they plan on voting for are of particular interest because they have grown up in a democratic South Africa.
Lesedi Molefi of the organisers Live magazine said in the past three months they have interviewed a number of born-frees and found that, “we’re not apathetic and have an incredible role to play,” not only in these elections but in steering the country’s future.
The panel consisted of comedian Kagiso Lediga, journalist Khadija Patel (@khadijapatel), DJ and tweleb DJ Fresh (@DJFreshSA) and social activist Shaka Sisulu (@shakasisulu). The panelists were chosen because they are seen as accessible to the youth and their ideas.
Why should born-frees vote?
Addressing the question, why should born-frees vote, Lediga said: “If you’re not voting, you’re not participating.” DJ Fresh added that participation goes beyond just voting, part of that civic duty is to hold politicians accountable. Sisulu provided an anecdote to explain further: “If you’re dating someone, you can’t see them once every five years – it won’t work, it’s a one night stand then. Put your ballot in the box but make sure to maintain and nurture that relationship over the five years coming.”
The debate was live streamed from Johannesburg to Cape Town and Ginsberg, King Williams Town with questions coming from all three places to the panel. A common complaint from all three provinces was that the youth were never heard. DJ Fresh responded by saying the onus was on political parties to appeal to the youth on their level through channels like twitter and instagram: “Politicians talk at young people and not to them.”
The focus in the latter part of the debate was on what the born-free vote can achieve and individual agency. Patel said, “agency is important – it means having the power within yourself to do something.” The crowd responded well to this and the conversation started to look at ground level solutions and social activism that gear them in that direction.
Lethabo Bogatsu, a self proclaimed born-free said the talk left her feeling empowered and keen to be an active citizen, “I was always going to vote but now I’m not going to stop there. It’s not just the vote and then I’m done. I’m going to work on the relationship, my man is going to be my vote, my political involvement is going to be my man. I’m going to have a relationship there because being single is rough.”
The slight looking 20-year-old Minty, who is also a fashion designer said the PA was youth-centred and had a strong focus on giving second chances to the reformed, like two of its own founders.
Second chances and new alliances
“If Nelson Mandela could have that chance to be reformed (sic) coming out of jail and having an opportunity, then we should allow Kunene and Gayton to have the same thing.
“In the same way a student has been charged with something should be allowed to have a future as well,” said Minty.
“Ex-cons” Gayton McKenzie, president of the PA and general secretary Kenny Kunene, met each other in jail and following their release in 2003, became business partners.
Minty met the two through his clothing line partnership, after Kunene was asked to be an ambassador for Minty’s own fashion label, Self Made Billionaire (SMB). “Kunene liked the idea of an up and coming clothing brand worn by celebrities,” said Minty.
He said the party also included more young people in its decision-making. He said four of the party’s 12-member national executive committee were under the age of 25.
“We are the only party out there who allows youth to have a platform in the NEC. The ANC and the Democratic Alliance has a separate Youth League so you don’t get young people in parliament,” he said.
Minty is sixth on the PA’s parlimentary list, which means if they manage to get six seats after the national elections this year, he could be sitting in parliament and not in stuffy lecture rooms.
The party’s focus on the youth and a “practical approach” to politics are what Minty believes will make the PA “a better alternative to the ANC”, which he said was policy heavy with little to no implementation thereof.
He believes that PA would be able to relate mostly to the born-frees because it was a party that did not have any “baggage”.
The PA’s campaign trail on campus has come with its own set of issues, “Until we have permission to be a club or society on campus we can’t really go out in a group and recruit people. We have been working by going person to person, trying to get them to join,” he said.
The PA, often referred to as the “coloured” or “gangster party”, was founded in Paarl in the Western Cape three months ago and plans to contest in the upcoming elections.
Minty said they have a good chance of having up to six seats in parliament after this year’s elections.
Minty is treasurer of the Wits Law Students’ Counsel and the chairperson of the Student Discipline Committee, which influenced his alignment with the PA and their belief in reforming and empowering the previously charged.
Before the PA, he was part of the ANC Youth League on campus where he took up position as treasurer but the PA presented him with an opportunity for national leadership
Along with the multitude of things Minty has on his plate this year, he plans to publish a motivational book, Empireby March. Let’s watch this space.
It starts with some subtle courting, then a proposal for a dinner date. You plan the outfit carefully a week before, pick the right shoes and accessories? The day before you get a call to confirm your date, along with it an sms that night saying: “I’m really looking forward to our date tomorrow, sleep tight.”
You arrive on time –15 minutes before, in fact, just to be safe. You ask for a table right in the middle of the restaurant so your date can spot you immediately and so that the two of you can be seen. After an hour you start to worry, your call is met by voicemail, you text incessantly but in vain. You start to notice patrons whispering about you.
The waiter is optimistic, says he’ll arrive any minute now. The manager has seen this happen before. She is sure you’ve been stood up and should probably just head home. She comes over and says: “These things never work out, don’t do it again.” After waiting 2 and 1/2 hours you admit defeat and head home, maybe it will work out next time, you think.
Voting in our beloved country has become much like the above scenario for many discouraged South Africans. We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark. Only the other side doesn’t show up. They leave us all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The upcoming elections present an opportunity to make our voices heard, or so they say. There are millions of voices trying to have their say, our government can only do so much, right? They may listen but it’s hard to believe they actually hear us. My generation has only just entered the arena as citizens with a voice, but already so many of us are weighed down by an overwhelming apathy because of the disconnect we can see in the promises made and the promises kept.
We fill our heads with countless readings, hours of roundtable discussions and engage with one another on theinterwebs trying to find a way. Just trying to find someone and something to believe in, someone and something bigger than the various constraints of our supposed privilege and contrasting poverty. There’s not much consensus between our leaders and us, the youth and the future. We don’t believe their lies, but we know it’s all part of a bigger game – if they don’t do it someone else will. We don’t believe there’s any point in choosing the lesser evil either, picking a side just to pick a side. The whole thing smells like a convoluted fishy mess to me.
But what choice do we have? If we keep quiet, we’ll have to watch it all burn. If we make a spoiled mark we may be accused of dishonouring those who shed blood to give us this right. If we agree to just pick a side as an act of “democracy”, we would willingly be hopping aboard “The Assimilation”, a ship destined for failure.
We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either but they think they do. We have a choice to make, an important one.
It’s up to us to make the one that says the plan isn’t working, one that says let’s revise the plan, let’s turn the plan on its head if need be.
Our inked thumbnails do mean something and will mean something either good or bad for those to come. As the architect in the Matrix said: “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”