It is yet another June 16 public holiday in South Africa – ‘Youth Day’ – a day that commemorates the massacre of Soweto pupils in 1976 by the apartheid killing machine.
Like anywhere in Africa, South African politicians rose up in this occasion to feed their die-hard followers with demagogic rhetoric and empty promises.
And while they did that, a huge section of young people out there – educated and uneducated and living on the margins of society – were watching from the sidelines. Probably wondering how in the Lord’s name they will get out of the cycle of poverty and unequality that have been choking them for years.
Independent commentators believe that the enthusiasm that gripped many young people in the early years of democracy has all but dissipated, as the ‘new nation’ they hoped to be part of, has turned to be nothing but a house of nightmares and social injustice.
This epitomises the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) survey on voter participation released in April 2011, which shows that the number of young people aged 16-24 stood at 45%, and this was below the South African average of 78%.
In the 2005 survey, the HSRC revealed that a lack of interest in national elections was highest among the same age group.
And when officials statistics reveal that 48% of young people are jobless in South Africa, some observers believe this is one of the conseqences of ‘prostitution of politics’, which consists of promoting the few politically well-connected at the expense of majority of ‘nobodies’.
This is what pushed Africa to the edge of self-destruction and mass poverty – an edge that it has been unable to get out more than 50 years after its independence.
Now, there are some out there who feel that the time has come to get rid of this ‘prostitution of politics’ by challenging some people’s so-called ‘God-given right to rule’.
It is therefore in this spirit that political parties such as Agang SA have come to be born. Agang claims to challenge the spectre of politics of fear, bad governace and corruption, and one of its young backers, the Pretoria-based Organisation of African Youth (OAYouth), said the new party wants to be a vehicle of community empowerment as opposed to a bunch of peddlers of votes.
But, will its leader and founder Dr Mamphela Ramphele, former Bretton Woods tenant and capitalism-minded by default, make a difference and return the favour if young people were to vote massively for her party?
One of Agang’s young followers said ‘yes she can’.
Sifiso Mthimunye, a second level Town Planning student at the University of Pretoria, said: “The ANC has come from being a liberal party to one drenched in corruption, the DA’s primary agenda is the ANC, COPE is made up of disgruntled members of the ANC and every other party is irrelevant.
“I didn’t fit into any of these spheres. Agang is a new concept, an inclusive concept. It is based on my needs as a young person today.”
Although OAYouth claims not to be affiliated to any political party, it ‘unconditionally’ backs Agang, saying: The entrance of Agang into the political sphere has been received by many of our youth as a move that reinforces the principle of multi-party democracy upon which South Africa’s political dispensation is essentially based.
“The coexistence of contrasting and inclusive views on how society should function is seen by the Organisation as a move in the right direction for South Africa’s maturing democracy, one of which is set to boost youth activism in the electoral system.”