Get Involved: The Opportunity 30 Years of Freedom Affords Us as Young People – By Lerato Mokopanela

Get Involved: The Opportunity 30 Years of Freedom Affords Us as Young People

By: Lerato Mokopanela

In April 1994, South Africa witnessed the dawn of a new era in our politics and national life. With the apartheid regime drawing its final breath, jubilation overcame millions of South Africans and the global community on what we officially commemorate as Freedom Day. The 1994 elections marked a watershed moment that granted citizens of all races, aged 18 and above, the hard-won right to exercise their freedom at the ballot box. Emotions surged as South Africans of every age queued across the nation with great hope to cast their votes. This moment not only signified the end of an era but also grappled with the echoes of a volatile past, yet cheered by the promise of a brighter future.

Fast forward 30 years to 2024, and there’s a noticeable absence of the unity that characterized 1994. Today’s political landscape is intricate and dynamic, reflecting the complexities of modern society. Numerous political factions vie for electoral support, while the spectre of the ruling party’s shortcomings looms large. This poses a challenge to realizing the mantra “1994 is our 2024,” a rallying cry across party lines highlighting the opportunity for South Africans to shape their nation’s trajectory through voting.

While we advocate the belief that “1994 is our 2024,” which symbolizes the importance of the upcoming general election, a sense of hopelessness persists. As we go into communities to encourage young people to register to vote, many young individuals feel disillusioned by the government and the harsh realities they endure. They question the value of voting amidst issues like load shedding, unemployment, and corruption. This despair can leave them feeling powerless, although the true power rests with them, not the government. Nevertheless, those who have registered to vote eagerly anticipate a positive change in governance. After three decades, change is long overdue.

This thinking of young people showcases why civic education plays a crucial role in emphasizing the significance of voting, instilling pride in voters, and encouraging them to champion political ideals that promote active engagement in democracy. It highlights the urgency of fostering patriotism in the next generation, nurturing a deep love, pride, and loyalty toward their country, thereby inspiring active participation in the democratic process. Political parties need to understand that they also hold the responsibility to educate citizens rather than just knocking at citizen’s doors for votes and handing out t-shirts to procure votes. Citizens need to be educated and informed so they can see the important role they play in shaping the nation, not the important role that a political party can play once voted into power.

When citizens understand civic education it will shape active-grassroot participation, develop a grasp of democratic principles, foster critical thinking skills, and promote a sense of civic responsibility. Understanding the rights, responsibilities, and processes of democratic participation will empower citizens to engage meaningfully in their communities and contribute to the democratic process. This includes acknowledging how government functions, the importance of voting, how to advocate for change, and the role of citizens in holding elected officials accountable. Additionally, it will promote empathy, tolerance, and respect for diverse perspectives, laying the foundation for a more inclusive and democratic society.

As Freedom Day approaches on April 27, let us unite in unwavering dedication to our nation’s destiny. Reflecting on past struggles, let us carry forth the torch of hope and resilience, while remaining united in our determination to shape a brighter tomorrow. It is our collective responsibility as a nation to engage in the democratic process and chart a course that enhances the well-being of all citizens. On May 29, 2024, let us judiciously exercise our voting rights and advocate for the advancement of our nation.


About the author:

Lerato Mokopanela is an adept facilitator, ACTIVATE! Change Driver’s civic education program coordinator, renowned for delivering high-quality training programs and implementing impactful initiatives and campaigns. Lerato is passionate about creating spaces that allow young people to recognize the power and potential they carry within themselves.

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