What Political Parties Misunderstand About Youth Participation In Elections

As the 2021 local government election draws closer with each day that passes by, the question arises as to whether South Africa's political parties have managed to get through to the youth in their calls for support.

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With the upcoming 2021 local government elections just two weeks away. South Africa's political parties have been campaigning for votes. But to what extent have young people been catered for in their manifestos.

Political and Social Analyst, Tessa Dooms says that what is missing in South Africa's political discourse is the understanding that all issues concern and impact the youth.

She adds that this is particularly the case when one considers the country's population demographics, more than 60% of the population is aged below 35 and this is excluding those under the age of 18.

Dooms also points out that, in as much as this is a large percentage of the electorate, the common mistake among party manifestos is that they view the youth as only being interested in economic development.

Much of the rhetoric around young people's needs focus on either education or resulting economic participation. But of course, young people are also interested in issues around service delivery and the supply of basic goods in their lives, which is an enabling factor for them going forward. 

She adds that much of this age group is also comprised of electorates who are parents, which also translates to concerns around issues such as community safety and the ability of those communities to provide support structures.

Thus, according to Dooms, political parties need to start thinking of the youth as more than just economic participants who are in search of employment opportunities, and more as people who are entirely integrated into the country's society.

The political analyst further states that based on voter registration turnout the youth do appear to be confident in the power of their vote.

She also points out that most young people's political decision making may be influenced by a variety of factors depending on how much political education they have received either in school and within their households.

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