The Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute hosted a seminar on the youth and politics.

South African youth are interested in politics, they just want to engage in it in their own ways. This was the central message shared by the speakers at the Youth Politics: (dis)Engaged, Angry, Agnostic or Apathetic?  seminar hosted by the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute (Asri) in collaboration with the Market Theatre Foundation on Wednesday, March 27.

The seminar hosted at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, sought to unpack youth attitudes towards politics and included Dr Mosa Phadi, a researcher from the Public Affairs Research Institute, Youth Lab managing director Pearl Pillay, and Miché Roberts, a researcher from the Institute of Security Studies.

“[Young people] may not necessarily vote but are very active on social media, campaigning, and protests,” said Roberts. Phadi agreed with Roberts saying that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are critical in measuring activism among the youth. 

Additionally, Pillay said there is a disconnect between political parties and the youth whom they claim to serve. “As consultative as political parties say manifesto processes are, large blocks of people get left out of the manifesto forming process,” she said. 

Asri Director of Programmes, Ebrahim Fakir, who moderated the discussion highlighted the low number of registered youths in comparison to the wider registered pool for the upcoming elections. Fakir attributed the low number to the “global phenomenon” of young people participating less in formal processes such as voting. Fakir said that young people probably “choose to channel political participation in other ways”.

Roberts said that young people turn to protesting as a last resort when they realise that voting during the elections will not benefit them.
Pillay added that protesting is a form of rejection of the establishment. “When they [the youth] opt out [of voting] it is a rejection of a
 system that chooses to use young people in ways that do not benefit them.”

Tlolohelo Mokgere, a Wits MUS Urban Management graduand added to the conversation by saying that youth in her community of Sebokeng are disinterested.

“Our elders play a role in our lives in how we perceive elections. Where I come from, they are disinterested.”

Mokgere added that situations such load shedding and fuel hikes have contributed to political disinterest. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Mosa Phadi speaks at the ASRI seminar on the youth in politics at the Market Theatre on March 27. Photo: Ntombi Mkandhla.