Declining Voter Turnout: A Growing Concern
The recent voter registration drive in South Africa reflects a concerted effort to combat a concerning trend: declining participation in national elections. Since the iconic 1994 democratic elections, where enthusiasm was palpable, a disheartening decline in voter turnout has persisted every five years. The 2019 elections saw a meager 49% of eligible voters show up—a stark contrast to the fervor of the past. What’s particularly worrying is the marked absence of young voters, with only a fraction of eligible 18- to 29-year-olds engaging in the democratic process.
Youth Apathy and Political Disillusionment
Young South Africans‘ disillusionment is obvious and driven by a variety of problems, including subpar services, a struggling economy, and an ongoing energy crisis. Oliver Curlewis, an 18-year-old high school student who expresses hopes for change but considers emigration if the situation doesn’t improve, is a voice that encapsulates this sentiment. The sentiment of disillusionment extends further, as seen in the reluctance of some young adults, like the 26-year-old medical student, disheartened by the lack of appealing political options and the dominance of older figures in the political sphere.
Uncertain Political Landscape and the ANC’s Dwindling Support
The African National Congress (ANC), once a beacon of hope during the post-apartheid era, is facing its own challenges. Allegations of corruption and inefficiency have marred its once-strong reputation. Despite dissatisfaction with the ANC, the opposition hasn’t seen a significant surge in support. The upcoming elections in 2024 could mark a turning point, potentially leading to a dip in the ANC’s vote share and a threat to its parliamentary majority, indicating a shifting political landscape in South Africa.