Young people in South Africa believe democracy does not work for them, according to Stellenbosch University’s Law Trust Chair in Social Justice, Professor Thuli Madonsela.
She was speaking at the second annual Social Justice Lecture, which was held virtually on Tuesday.
“Many young people are saying no to democracy, because it’s not working for them. But democracy is ignoring the racial inequalities that were created by apartheid; democracy is ignoring the gender disparities that were created by patriarchy; and [the] underprivileged [are] ignored by democracy, and they do not want it,” she said.
Madonsela said young people are starting to understand that, through engagements, they can shake democracy.
“We already have a Constitution that serves as a basis for healing the divisions of our past. If we are to solve the problem, we need to look at all aspects of the past and address it. We cannot only solve poverty, we need to solve inequality,” she said.
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Madonsela said society has a collective role to play in democracy to make social justice work.
“We are not concretely committing ourselves to disrupt what was created by apartheid. I do think we are trying to build a society where the legacy of colonialism, apartheid, patriarchy and heterosexualism, classism and xenophobia, and many other injustices of the past get addressed.
“We have a problem, [but] is it only unemployment? No, the problem includes the psychosocial impacts of apartheid and other injustices – among it is social exclusion, such as education,” she said.
The issue of financial exclusion among students at universities took centre stage during the lecture.
Recently, there have been protests across the country, during which students at various universities have demanded that historic debt be scrapped.
The lecture included a keynote address by US-based empowerment and social change activist, Keith Benson, who discussed the similarities in social issues between America and South Africa.
“Indeed, the problems of America and our sister nation of South Africa are a direct result of injustices. Many people’s homes are broken and people are struggling to keep the lights on,” he said.