The reality in South Africa is that youth unemployment tips the scales, it is a heavy burden on every aspect of our development. There are some small dents made through initiatives such as YES4YOUTH, although the burden of unemployment remains stagnant at 60%. According to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate remains high irrespective of the level of education, with graduate unemployment accounting for 40.3% for those aged 15-24 years.
As young voters, it is imperative for us to unpack the unemployment crises and make the tough choice of who to put our “X” next to as the country heads to the polls to determine local government leadership in South Africa.
There are several parties and candidates and of course, this blog does not do justice to them all; instead it is a quick, on-the-go sum-up of what the main political parties are prioritising.
AFRICan national congress.
The African National Congress (ANC) plans to stimulate local economies including remodelling the Community Works Programmes, reduce the red-tape for small and medium and micro enterprises (SMME) and undertake to implement the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan to speed up social and economic change including the eradication of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. There is a focus on expanding WI-FI hotspots, the night time economy and enabling/ supporting the informal sector.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) recognises the ‘unemployment crisis’ and states that the single most urgent priority in the country is to address this. There is an emphasis on addressing low rates of participation in elections and community affairs. There is a need to up-scale internships, bursaries and skills among youth as well as support for the informal economy.
Action SA focuses on creating a business-friendly environment, with an emphasis on establishing paid internships, especially for university graduates. The party highlights success through interventions such as business centres and partnerships with the private sector.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) states that it will institutionalise youth development at the local government level including the professionalisation of youth, and ensure that at least 40% of those employed are between the ages of 18 and 35. Every EFF municipality will spend 50% of its procurement budget on youth-owned businesses. Property rates and tax rebates incentivise private cooperation’s to ensure that 35% of the workforce are between the ages of 18 and 35. The EFF will guarantee free drivers lessons and a driver’s license test.
What are we voting for?
Each party has earmarked the important elements from WI-FI, private partnerships and local level opportunities. The EFF does lead the way, clearly setting out the agenda especially on the “professionalisation” front; however, we know from past experience, it can be all a rhetoric, populism and no action as none of these interventions have been implemented during their tenure in power.
The concern is that these are first and foremostly across all manifestos are the empty promises – municipality finances are in shambles and it is unlikely that these interventions will ever receive funding prioritisation. The reality is that public sector application processes are a nightmare and youth are unlikely to be absorbed into local government given fiscal constraints, frozen posts and limited room for more hires. The final concern is that while the local economy and informal sectors are important, they do not hold the promise of decent work. The greatest challenge as Youth Capital aptly puts it, is that most of these jobs highlighted by political parties are “entry-level and dead end.”
As we make our mark, let’s not be guided by promises, but rather implementation – financing the youth employment agenda, creating robust employment and career growth, modernised technology-driven environments (side note, which need to be supported by stable electricity supply). Although this advice by itself is a conundrum, no party has really fared well, “implementation wise.”
The truth is, it doesn’t matter which party comes into power, we are unlikely to see any change based on these so-called promises, it is going to be up to us to rise up and lead the way, not pin our hopes on government alone.
Opinions expressed are those of the author and not representative of any organisation.
About the author: Dr Shakira Choonara is an award-winning public health practitioner, a former member of the African Union Youth Council, and the 2017 Woman of the Year in Health in South Africa.