Some of South Africa’s biggest challenges — like high unemployment and HIV/AIDS infection rates — disproportionately affect young people.
According to Statistics South Africa, 38% of people aged 15 to 34 were unemployed in the beginning of 2018. Of the total number of unemployed people in South Africa, according to the site, some 64% are young people.
Meanwhile historic challenges like economic exclusion and the land dispossession of black people by the apartheid regime have become hot topics among the youth.
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But even though the country’s political and civil leaders are typically older, young South Africans are determined to make sure their voices count, using one of the few tools in their hands: their vote.
South Africa will have its general elections in May 2019 and of the 700,000 new voters who have registered to have their say, 31% are under 31 years old, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
“These means that the youth have heeded the call,” said IEC chief executive officer Sy Mamabolo, at a press briefing last week.
In total, 26 million South Africans have so far registered to vote.
Young people in South Africa have always been politically active, whether it was leading the historic 1976 uprisings against the universal use of Afrikaans in schools, or as the “born-free generation” — those born after apartheid’s demise in 1994 — who make up an estimated 40% of the population.
And recent years have been no different.
The May vote will mark the first election held after youth-led movements like Fees Must Fall, which staged nationwide student protests calling for free higher education; #RhodesMustFall, which called for decolonising public spaces; NotInMyName against gender-based violence, and #WeRemember that protested against femicide.