Getting the youth to the polls

The Mail & Guardian spoke to leaders in three of the most popular political movements to find out exactly how they are planning to get their constituencies to the ballot box—and who they should vote for once they arrive

Toeing the party line

Nyiko Floyd Shivambu—ANC Youth League spokesperson

What makes your organisation different from other political youth formations in the country?
The African National Congress Youth League is the youth wing of the African National Congress, which is a matured national liberation movement and the only maturing political governing party in South Africa. The ANCYL has almost always supplemented, made more militant and redefined various trajectories in the struggle for national liberation, class and gender emancipation. The Youth League’s role currently is defined around, but not limited to, the mobilisation of young people behind the vision of the ANC while championing their interests.
We do not pride ourselves on the castle we haven’t built, but on the reality that the liberation of South Africa happened through the energy brought by the founding generation of the ANCYL.


How many members do you have?
The number of membership forms that have been captured in the ANCYL system is approximately 450 000, with thousands of other forms not captured into the system because of the restructuring of our membership system from a centralised into a decentralised system.

One of the major problems facing the youth in the country is unemployment. What is your organisation doing to help the youth enter the labour market?
South Africa’s dependent economy is not adequately labour absorptive, hence our advocacy on a more labour absorptive industrial and developmental strategy in all communities. The ANCYL has been at the forefront of mobilising young people into education, training and skills development institutions.

Do you think there is a need for change in the current economic policies to create more jobs for the youth?
There should be continuity and change. The ANCYL’s recent past national congress (23rd national congress) resolved, among other things, that “all economic transformation programmes and practices pursued by the ANC-led government should be aimed at bettering the lives of people and attainment of the Freedom Charter objectives and aspirations”.

The 23rd national congress economic transformation resolutions place more emphasis on job creation, equitable spatial development, development of the productive forces and communities and what we called developmental economic growth.

What is your position on the BEE policy?
The ANCYL believes that BEE should be retained, yet BEE financing by the state should mainly focus on financing new industrial developments, instead of creating indebted black shareholder capitalists who do not have control over industrial developments and direction of the companies and corporations they supposedly control.

Do you think the time has come for South Africa to change its electoral system and why?
We believe the current system is the most workable and durable system. Parliament’s interaction with the people in communities should, however, be improved at national, provincial and local level. Electing individuals into Parliament outside their organisation’s mandate could cause problems, so any model that proposes such is problematic. We should retain the electoral system, but think strongly around various models of participatory and deliberative democracy.

What are your plans to get young people to vote in the 2009 elections?
The ANCYL is already mobilising young people wherever they are found ... We speak to young people in schools, in parks, in sports complexes, in churches and in social gatherings. We are very confident that the majority of youth votes will go to the ANC, because by the election date, we would have spoken to all young voters across the country and convinced them about the nobility of our goals and the preparedness/readiness of the ANC to deliver and build sustainable livelihoods, create decent work and provide quality health and education for all.

Nyiko Floyd Shivambu is the spokesperson for the ANC Youth League and a member of the Young Communist League of South Africa. He is also a member of the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) Joint Task Team


No to nepotism ...

Anele Mda—Cope Youth Movement Head

What makes your organisation different from other political youth formations in the country?
CopeYM is different because it is the first truly multicultural party that strives for the youth of South Africa to live in a democratic, inclusive and prosperous country, which actively opposes all racial, gender and ethnic stereotypes. We stand instead for high tolerance, a politically responsible nation where all citizens share in the nation’s pride, identity and to address the national question where people’s freedom is realised under a peaceful and stable society.

How many members do you have?
As of now we haven’t done our membership audit, but I can confirm to you that it’s growing day by day and our programmes are currently indicating high numbers of young people; this is evident of the high turnout that we get in our programmes.


One of the major problems facing the youth in the country is unemployment. What is your organisation doing to help the youth enter the labour market?
Unemployment has become a major cause of misery to our youth, where they get qualified, but become jobless. At the centre of this is the government of the day, who must be blamed because the deployments, which dictate who must get employed, were not based on merit, but on political connections and nepotism.

As CopeYM, we are clear on this matter. We say all vacant posts should be applied for by everyone, and we say no to [nepotism], but yes to fair employment. Learnerships should be continuous, but they should address how, at the end of the 12 months, the person will be absorbed. Empower with experience and create employment.

Do you think there is a need for change in the current economic policies to create more jobs for the youth?
The state of our economy signifies that in the near future something needs to be done to retain stability again and that goes with policy reviews as well. We are deeply concerned and worried about this. If the employment of young people will be made possible by changing and/or reviewing these polices, to us the matter is to break all barriers that continuously imprison young people in a state of unemployment.

What is your position on the BEE policy?
Please refer to the policies of Cope on this matter.

Do you think the time has come for South Africa to change its electoral system and why?
Time has come because democracy is meant to be exercised by the people having input and comment on whatever the government wishes to do and the minute it does not happen, then it’s a democracy of the few and the rest suffer.

The change in electoral system will guard against this as it will ensure the voice of the people prevails.

What are your plans to get young people to vote in the 2009 elections?
Young people are the future-makers and they should be able to take part in the nature of the future they want today. This is the youths’ time for change and success so we will be having fun walks, cycling and jogging with messages to register and vote.

Anele Mda heads the Congress of the People Youth Movement. She is the founder of the Growing Girls Group and Creative Young Women group


Make the economy work for the youth

Khume Ramulfho—Democratic Alliance Youth spokesperson

What makes your organisation different from other political youth formations in the country?
The DA Youth supports the development of an open opportunity society in which the state ensures that the youth have access to the resources and opportunities they need to realise their own potential. This stands in stark contrast to an organisation such as the ANC Youth League, which advocates the ANC’s closed, patronage-driven system, in which the youth are forced to become reliant on the state for handouts and their opportunities in life are determined by the elite, ruling clique.

How many members do you have?
We are in the process of restructuring our organisation and have not yet been able to audit our figures. That aside, it’s not the size of our membership, but rather the size of the results produced by our activist base that we are concerned with. We have activists in all provinces and at most university campuses in South Africa, with support rapidly growing, as is evidenced by the recent sweeping wins by the DA Students’ Organisation at the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand.


One of the major problems facing the youth in the country is unemployment. What is your organisation doing to help the youth enter the labour market?
The DA Youth advocates a voucher system, through which all school leavers are allocated a wage subsidy of R7 500, thereby supporting industry in valuable skills development and training for the youth.

Skills development should enjoy a very high priority in South Africa. Without it, our economic growth will be stunted and millions of our people will struggle to find employment. We must invest in our human capital: training should be largely by the market, for the market.

Do you think there is a need for change in the current economic policies to create more jobs for the youth?
Key elements should include:

  • Making economic growth non-negotiable when policies and priorities are being determined;

  • Simplifying labour laws to encourage job creation;

  • Creating an investor, employment and enterprise-friendly business environment;

  • Providing support, concessions and opportunity for small, medium and micro enterprises;

  • Establishing export processing zones to provide employment for unskilled workers;

  • Actively encouraging the immigration of skilled personnel.

  • introducing certainty and transparency to BEE;

  • Access to skills and opportunities; and

  • Entrepreneurs, big and small must be lauded, not lambasted.

What is your position on the BEE policy?
We support Broad-Based BEE, not just BEE based on political connections. BEE in its current form is elitist and redistributive and has had no effect on reducing poverty and inequality.

Do you think the time has come for South Africa to change its electoral system and why?
Yes, we need to strengthen our constituency representation. Voters must be able to elect their MP/MPL directly. We therefore propose a mixture of the PR and constituency systems. Mayors, premiers and the president must be elected directly. Also to re-look at the [Frederick] Van Zyl Slabbert commission findings. We will introduce an element of accountability for parliamentarians to their constituencies, rather than just to the party whips.

What are your plans to get young people to vote in the 2009 elections?
We are driving campaigns aimed at solving challenges facing young people at various levels. We are focusing on campuses during their respective registration weeks to mobilise supporters and increase political awareness. This campaign is also giving the youth an opportunity to sign up to our Contribute to Change programme. Doing door-door, house meetings, public meetings, facebook, smses, emails or innovative technology to communicate.

Khume Ramulifho is the DA’s national spokesperson and a councillor for the City of Johannesburg. He has been a member of the party since 1998

Client Media Releases

Five ways to use Mobi-gram
Leopards Lair 2019: winner fights period poverty
MTN gears up for Black Friday sale promotion
Software licensing should be getting simpler, but it's not
Utility outages: looking at the big picture