Our disillusioned youth know one thing: Change is coming

Fed up: Students at the University of the Witwatersrand protest at fee increases and demand institutional change. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Fed up: Students at the University of the Witwatersrand protest at fee increases and demand institutional change. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Young people around the country are conflicted by a deep sense of loyalty to the people and the party that assisted in the nation’s liberation while also being struck by a sense of anger at the same people and party, whose inability to deliver on promises, policies and services has left their followers feeling disappointed and hopeless.

The very people who once fought for democracy with an unwavering sense of mission seem to have shifted their ideology from one of collective freedom to a focus on individuality and material wealth.

Nowhere was that made clearer than by the decision of the ruling party to support President Jacob Zuma even though he had violated the Constitution of South Africa and continually showed poor judgment both before and throughout his presidency.

The very same people who helped put together the Constitution are now the ones dishonouring it.

On a weekly basis we see various articles discussing how political figures and their families are being enriched through government tenders, state-owned corporations or the government’s interactions with the private sector.

We also hear of the massive corruption taking place within the government, with more than R700‑billon lost through corrupt practices since 1994. Talk of state capture by wealthy families and corporations has only exacerbated the feelings of hopelessness and disappointment.

What, then, should young people think of the very people we once called our heroes?

The student protests at various universities as well as service delivery protests, mainly led by the youth, show that there is a new generation of young people who no longer feel that South Africa’s current leadership represents their aspirations.

They are beginning to show signs of disengagement, while on the other side there is a radicalised element that has no interest in preserving the current political and economic order.

On the one hand, we have a group of young people who wish to be given an opportunity to contribute to our new economic and political dispensation but who have been completely left out – and will continue to be left out.

On the other hand are those young people who have experienced what the new economic and political dispensation has to offer, but have rejected it. They are calling for something new, something more African and, most importantly, something that is fair and representative of our new South African reality.

It is the latter movement that seems to be building momentum, led by young people who are no longer interested in the current mainstream politic rhetoric, disappointed by the state of economic disparity and insulted by leaders who have turned their back on the very principles they were once willing to die for.

It cannot be denied that our leaders fought hard and sacrificed a lot for the freedom we now have in South Africa, but there is a growing belief that time has moved on – and that what was good yesterday may be no good today.

Our leaders have lost touch with the needs of not just young people but the common man too. If political leaders are not aware of this and don’t bring about a new South African experience, then surely their days of leading are over.

This new generation of young people seeks to recreate South Africa, as well as to rectify its historical injustices, while dealing with the real and everyday struggles of our population. 

If our leaders continue to ignore this sentiment, it is only a matter of time before young people around the country start taking more radical steps.

We truly are sitting on a ticking time bomb and, like a seismologist who predicts when earthquakes are imminent, we can see all the signs that show an explosion is coming – and only new and responsible leadership will stop it.

Kanelo Pitso is the director and cofounder of the Young Lab Association

 

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