This year people born around the end of apartheid will be able to vote for the first time.

The amount of young people actively involved in politics indicates that the youth vote will have a great impact and make a large contribution to the upcoming elections, SRC Deputy President Taymoon Altamash told Perdeby. Rochelle Oosthuyse, chairperson of AfriForum Youth, feels that because the born free generation is more integrated and informed than previous generations, voters may make their decisions based on the way they want the country to develop rather than “historical facts and influences”. Prof. Bernard Bekink, professor of public law at UP and attorney of the High Court of South Africa, believes that although the born free generation will influence the upcoming elections, the extent of this will “depend on their commitment to make an effort, as they should, to go out and vote on election day”.

SRC member in charge of transformation and student success Nthabiseng Nooe says that, “Every political party appeals to a certain group of interest, and this is the essence of politics.” She adds that targeting different social groups in order to gain votes is how political parties generally operate. Taking this into account, Kabelo Mahlobogwane, who does the organising and marketing for EFF Tuks, warns that young people can easily be emotionally blackmailed and be blinded into making decisions for the wrong reasons. Nooe mentions ideologies, loyalty, manifestos and service track records as some of the things that people take into account when they vote. Oosthuyse says that another important factor is a person’s socio-economic background, which includes religious upbringing, culture, race and families.

Prof. Bekink says that, “The younger generation seems to want results rather than promises and are thus evaluating political parties more on performance than on promises. This again could have a ‘game-changing’ and direction-shifting impact on the way in which voters in our land exercise their hard fought right to franchise.” Prof. Koos Malan, professor of public law at UP, feels that many young people are as capable of making informed decisions when voting as people from older generations. Prof. Bekink agrees with this and says that the younger generation is better informed about politics because of the rise of social media and can therefore make informed and objective decisions when voting.

Some students are, however, not confident that they are ready to vote. Hlengiwe Buthelezi, a third-year LLB student, says that she will vote but has not made her mind up whom she will vote for yet. On the other hand, Thotoane Sello, a third-year BA Social Work student, says that she is ready to vote and will be making “the decision based on what [she wants] for current and future South Africa and not a decision based on a 20-year-old past”.

According to Nooe, “All adults, especially those that form the lower age range of the work force, vote to contribute to their vision of a better South Africa.”

Reaobaka Taje, a third-year BCom student, believes that although our country has changed a lot, more needs to be done and for this reason she will be voting in the upcoming elections. Because a large group of the population still holds on to anger and memories created by the apartheid era, Roelanie Botha, a second-year LLB student, thinks that votes from the born free generation will not make as great an impact during the upcoming elections, but that as the amount of post-apartheid generations increase, the effect will be greater.

Giving young people who were born after the apartheid era the opportunity to vote has positive aspects. Altamash says that these include “a sense of belonging to the republic” being fostered, a deeper understanding of their contribution to society, and being afforded the right to criticise the problems in South Africa.

Nooe says that some of the negative aspects to young people voting are that a lot of South Africa’s youth are ignorant to the past and current political situations and do not understand the extent of the struggle during apartheid.

Mariana Pietersen, a sociology lecturer at Tuks, advises students to be rational when deciding which party to vote for. Mahlobogwane agrees and adds that students need to do research and look at each party’s history to see whether they delivered on the promises they made while campaigning.

The born free generation’s influence during the 2014 elections can be seen as a catapult, setting in motion change to a unified nation that will have a lasting effect. Although the impact might not be that great, it may have a ripple effect and not just be another drop in the ocean.

Photo: Kirsty Mackay

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