Twenty five years after Nelson Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) Party has been re-elected for their sixth straight term after elections were held on 8 May 2019. Despite the win, the results raise concerns for the party as they represent the lowest majority that the ANC has ever held. The outcome may be reflective of what the majority of the black population consider a failure on behalf of the ANC to secure Mandela’s vision of a ‘rainbow nation’. A sense of disenfranchisement exists towards the current political system, particularly among young black South Africans. The ‘Born Free’ generation – the first children born into the post-apartheid era – are now coming of age to vote, however as many as six million under-30s were not registered in recent elections. The lack of political interest among the younger cohort is concerning, however a group of activists from the Born Free generation continue to fight for equality.
ANC Youth League Member, Mcebo Dlamini, is one such activist. Campaigning for change throughout the elections, Dlamini believes the current political system is outdated: “The ANC we live in now is an ANC of Nelson Mandela, [Alfred] Xuma and [Ashby] Mda. Where is the ANC of our generation that will speak to the challenges of 2018? That’s what we are fighting for.”
Prominent #FeesMustFall student activist, Kabelo Mahlobogwane, echoed Dlamini’s sentiments, airing frustration over past governments’ efforts to eliminate the corruption and segregation witnessed during the apartheid: “When I used to engage with my elders about apartheid, I actually learned that everything corrupt that is happening today is exactly what they were fighting against during apartheid. Every inequality is still here.”
A lack of faith in the government to resolve ongoing corruption and inequality has seen many young black South Africans boycott the political system all together. This vote of no confidence is concerning considering the nation only recovered from a state of emergency, and a UN arms embargo sparked by racial violence, less than thirty years ago. Those still involved are calling for the removal of economic and state structures that uphold the racial domination of the apartheid era. The major demands centre around the nationalization of banks, a decrease in educational fees, higher wages and the expropriation of white-owned land.
Statistics from the World Bank reveal that South Africa remains the most economically unequal country in the world. Many black South Africans are still at a disadvantage with fewer employment opportunities and lower wages in comparison to their white counterparts. Since the end of apartheid, the ANC has been plagued with accusations of corruption under former President Jacob Zuma, while the bulk of the party’s youth has broken off to form the left-populist party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who received significant gains in the election.
The newly elected government must not let the Born Frees’ appraisals fall upon deaf ears, and instead must integrate their views into political decision making. This is imperative to safeguard against the risk of re-destabilization into large-scale conflicts witnessed in the 1980s and 1990s, and to ensure continued stability and security throughout the nation. Looking to the future, Dlamini believes only “through the redistribution of land and the incorporation of black people into the economy” can the country’s issues be resolved. Commenting on a recent Global Citizen funding campaign held in South Africa, he also warns of capitalism’s influence on the exacerbation of inequality. Dlamini opines, “The government must not outsource its role to improve the lives of the masses of the people. We are not a charity case. Charity is unsustainable. That time of our people being taken care of by white people in companies must end. Our people want to self-sustain. We are saying create those opportunities.”
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