Although it’s only been 20 years since South Africa achieved democracy, an entire generation, known as the “born-frees” is already showing signs of political fatigue with nearly one million of them choosing not to vote.
Tomorrow, and on just one day, South Africans will take to the polls and cast their vote in this year’s national general elections but the ‘babies’ of a free South Africa are not clamouring to the polls as was anticipated.
In staying away from the polling booths, the children of democracy, who are supposed to be proud to make their mark for the first time, are effectively failing the nation. But their reasons for standing on the sidelines on such a momentous day are varied.
“I’m not voting because … I believe that regardless of who I vote for the ANC (African National Congress) will win … I feel as though it’s between the ANC and the DA (Democratic Alliance), and I don’t really mind who wins between the two,” said Dominic Dandajena, a BCom student from the University of Pretoria.
A common excuse was the high levels of corruption among politicans. “They [politicians] are extremely corrupt. Especially the ruling party politicians, but nothing is being done about it,” said Mpho Mile, a student from the International Hotel School.
“Our country’s politicians are not exemplary. Most of them do not possess the qualities of a good leader and this leads to them leading the nation astray often,” says Lesego Pitsi, a performing arts student from the State Theatre, in Pretoria..
Others feel political engagement is very far down their list of priorities even though it takes just a couple of hours to cast one’s vote.
“This [degree] is important to me right now, so I am more focused on this than I am on politics,” said Gemma Cooke-Tonnesen, a BCom Accounting student at Wits.
“However, I believe I still need to take an interest in politics.” Despite this sentiment, she is not registered to vote tomorrow.
While born-frees are well aware of South Africa’s history, they would prefer to “forget about the past,” according to Zongezile Qeba, a second year chemical engineering student from Wits. This has manifested itself in the form of apathy and for many, the decision not to vote.
“Sadly, South Africa is no longer a democratic country, but rather a crazy country that continuously tosses to and fro.”
Qeba is choosing not to vote because he, like many of his generation, are not “inspired enough”.
Born-frees are special
Even though she won’t be voting, Mile believes being a ‘born-free’ means she is already privileged: “Being a born-free, I have numerous amounts of opportunities. That doesn’t mean everything will be handed to me without no effort. There are opportunities that we are given the resources to attain,” she said.
“The born-free generation represent an era of redemption, a generation that is free from all forces of apartheid,” said Pitsi.
While the small percentage of registered born-frees is worrying, these elections will have an impact on them whether or not they choose to vote. The government and leaders elected into power will ultimately set the agenda for the youth, even those who care little about politics.
Getting a degree and finding employment after school will always be a priority for young people but if there’s one thing these elections have taught the nation, it’s that an entire generation of South Africans have already moved on from the past and need issues of the present and future to be taken very seriously, very quickly.