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Khaya Dlanga: The youth vote will shape our future

Young people are not as useless as some grown-ups seem to assume. They are energetic and have a great interest in the country. I have seen how interested they are in politics on social networks and how they get involved in the debates that take place. Their interest should not be dismissed as superficial. South African politics is far too interesting for them not to be fascinated. The question is what to do with that interest. Political parties have taken note.  

A great war over young voters is brewing in South Africa. It seems everyone is counting on the angry youth to revolt against the ANC by not voting for it. 

There is an idea that the so-called born frees have no relationship with the ANC, so many people conclude that there will be a tough battle over the younger people. It is true that there will be a tough battle. The ANC will have to work hard to persuade people who are angry and don't want to vote. These are people who would have voted for the ANC anyway if they decided to vote. 

The Economic Freedom Fighters is not an alternative. Agang SA most certainly is not. In fact, I will go as far as to say that Agang SA is going to have a disastrous time at the polls. It will do far worse than expected. And of course the Democratic Alliance will be the only real contender on the back of the white vote, followed by other minorities. As Helen Zille pointed out in the last election, the DA only garnered 6% of the black vote. To expect the DA to increase its portion of the black vote by a large enough margin to win would be nothing short of a miracle that would rival the virgin birth. 

Many young people have already been disappointed after they responded emotionally by voting for Cope, which turned out to be a disaster. Cope took advantage of youthful energy and optimism and flushed it down the toilet. Within this context, many young people will be extremely sceptical of new political parties, meaning the ANC may reabsorb many of the voters who ran off to Cope. 

Generation Next research says this generation trust their parents the most when it comes to information. What does it mean if they trust their parents the most? If their parents overwhelmingly vote ANC, a vast majority of them will also likely vote ANC. However, the ANC will still need to earn their vote. 

In Timothy 4:12, the apostle Paul writes to his young disciple, Timothy, and says to him: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young." Any party that neglects young people does so at its own peril. 

The youth are powerful but they don't know it. The party that capitalises on young people will have the country for a long while. The youth are in the majority and can shape the direction of a nation. The youth do not know how to wield the power they have. How are they to wield what they don't know they possess in the first place? 

In the Game of Thrones books, there is an interesting character called Lord Varys. He is a eunuch who walks the corridors of power in Westoros and wields an enormous amount of influence. At one point, Lord Varys is talking to the imp Lord Tyrion Lannister, the unloved son of a powerful and rich man, Lord Tywin Lannister. Varys, who has taken a liking to the imp, says to him about power; "Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less."

"A shadow on the wall," Varys murmured, "yet shadows can kill. And oft times a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

The youth are about to cast a very large shadow on the future of the country. Everyone knows it. This is why Agang SA, the DA and the EFF are also all gunning for the youth vote. 

Over the next few months we have to listen to what political parties are telling us. We need to question them and interrogate the things they tell us because we are at a generational crossroads. Twenty years since freedom is a time for some introspection. What direction do we want the country to take in the next 20 years? We as young people have a future we are about to inherit. In these upcoming elections, we have to ensure that we determine our future by voting smartly in our numbers.

The next 20 years are going to be even more important than the last. The previous generation of leaders created a springboard for us. It is our time, let us take it and seize it. Our time starts now.

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