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A local resident hangs a sign ahead of elections in an informal settlement on the outskirts of the northern South African city of Polokwane A local resident hangs a sign ahead of elections in an informal settlement on the outskirts of the northern South African city of Polokwane  (AFP or licensors)

Archbishop of Johannesburg urges young South Africans to vote

A quarter-century after the end of apartheid, South Africans go to the polls on 8 May in the nation’s 6th national democratic election. But voter apathy, especially amongst the young, risks undermining the hard-won democratic process.

By Linda Bordoni

The ruling African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela that has been in power since 1994, is likely to win a majority in the 8 May general election, but it will face a difficult challenge to match the 62% of the vote that it won in the previous election five years ago.

The party has been tarnished by widespread corruption scandals. A high unemployment rate, continuing inequality and brutal episodes of xenophobia and intolerance have left many voters disillusioned. Especially the young.

A survey shows that the number of South Africans under 20 who have registered to participate in the 8 May general election has dropped to the lowest level since at least 1999.

That’s why the archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale OMI, has made a special appeal to young people, begging them to “exercise their right to vote” and reminding them that “young people are likely to shape the future of the country.”

Sheila Pires is a Johannesburg-based journalist and Radio host and presenter at Radio Veritas. She focuses on the need for new economic and migration policies which, she says will be the main challenges for whoever gains seats of power in the election.   

Listen to the interview with Sheila Pires

“My hope is economic change” said Sheila Pires, “The country needs to have a clear view of where it wants to be economically because presently we have high rates of unemployment which are closely linked to criminal activities”.

migration, criminality, xenophobia

Pires went on to explain that all too often in South Africa, criminal behavior is also closely connected to xenophobia: “The two are combined”.

She explained that in a society fraught with injustice, criminals gang up with those who are against foreigners owning shops and businesses, sentiments that lead to violent xenophobic episodes and intolerance.

“So, she continued, we also need to look at the issue of migration properly”.

Regarding the fact that the ANC is facing multiple challenges, Pires said there are big divisions within the Party itself, as well as widespread disenchantment on the part of citizens.

If you look at the Party’s history, right after Apartheid, she said, the people thought “the country is now ours”.

But, she added, if you look at it though an economic lens, “You will see that commerce, business, and the big companies are all owned by the West. So what belongs to South Africans really?”

the land issue

Even the land, Pires said, is owned by big corporations from the West, from America and from China.

“I think Government needs to stop lying to the people” she said.

It needs to be honest, and South Africans have to start having “open and frank conversations regarding what really belongs to the people of South Africa”.

07 May 2019, 19:21