Is this generation of youth ready to lead the country?

Reflections of the Radio 702 Youth Election Debate by Tshepang Mokgatla

With the national elections around the corner and all political parties doing their final voter mobilisation, prime media’s radio 702 hosted yet another election debate with the focus being on youth issues and the question “how will the elections affect young South Africans?” Although the theme was met with manifesto rhetoric, I could not help but ask myself are the youth of our generation ready to lead?

Our nation needs a more advanced ideology in order to transform our nation. The generation of the ruling party that brought liberation to our nation were in pursuit of a non-sexist, non-racist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Although the ideal is not fully realised, significant strides have been made hence we are in the state that we are in currently. When scrutinising the manifesto rhetoric from all the political organisations, most if not all political organisations have normalised this as their principles and values that guide their respective party’s policy framework. However we need to step up the thinking in order to ensure that our state of readiness to lead is shown in political engagement.

In his opening remark, Eusebius McKaiser said “If you look at the stats, these (youth) are the gifted society, broken society that are leaders of tomorrow… and some that are here will be taking over the reins of their political parties.” A gift to a broken society can be a curse or a blessing, depending on what is done with the gift. The nation is facing challenges of a forever increasing inequality gap, highest ever unemployment rate and deeper levels of poverty, with all the political manifestos speaking about combating symptoms and not dealing with the root of the weeds.

In order for our generation to show preparedness, we need to define the ideal South Africa and ensure that all of us plant this seed then pull towards growing it. If we are going to make poverty, inequality and unemployment history, we need a more holistic approach where our tax spend is invested in building the ideal South Africa.

Most notable of the discussions were the articulation around the need for constitutional reform by the IFP’s Hlengwa and Hassan of the ANC. The current constitution was ideal in order to reach a negotiated settlement that brought peace and stability to the nation and that was successfully achieved, however is the constitution serving the current national agenda of addressing the triple challenges?

“A lot has been done to change the lives of our people, and there is still a lot more to do” Hassan.

For our generation to show that we are ready to lead we need to really define our generational mission of “Economic freedom in our life time” which cannot be limited to nationalisation of our countries economic driving sectors and expropriation of land. Education has been declared free, but until we have a reformed curriculum that is decolonised, COMPULSORY and aligned to the ideal South Africa we will again create a system that is prone to more corruption and only benefits the elite.

Is our generation ready to lead? Our readiness can only be defined by our setting of the agenda we want to lead with. Currently we are still finding our feed because we are letting our discourse to be framed by the old generation and we are servicing a framework that is established by them.

“The reason we don’t have youth in our hashtag is because when old farts do poorly in debates we don’t age them, but when youth do we tend to infantilise them… This debate is a fully fledged debate and you are all leaders,” said McKaiser. Let us set and drive the agenda as the youth of South Africa and make it clear that we will go out to vote on the 8th of May with the understanding that voting is a step towards us leading however it is not the means to an end.


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