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The nationwide failure of democracy has left many questioning the upcoming 2024 national elections, with the debate around the decline and possible fall of the ANC intensifying.
According to many young South Africans, socioeconomic inequality and job scarcity, as well as corruption and lack of accountability, have created a view that democracy has not delivered a better life for all.
It sparked a debate of whether SA would be better off without the ruling party or with a combination of all political parties.
According to political analyst Ongama Mtimka, there has been a decline in the major historical trend of 2010 and 2020, in a way that changed the party system from a dominant party to what looks like a multiparty democracy.
“In the theories about democratic consolidation, we use the nature of the party system in a country to determine how democratic it is,” he said. “With one-party state where there can be no other party that can contest, you’ve got an environment where it’s not legally prescribed for there to be one party. But it happens as a result of the historical centre.”
He said South Africa had been exactly that: effectively it was not a one-party state in the sense that there was one party that was allowed to run for election. “Given the preference that the majority of the population had for the ANC, with every successive election, you know that they are going to win.”
However, student activist Lesego Molefe said with all that has been happening – a failing Eskom, the Zondo commission report, corruption, unemployment, and the soaring cost of living – the signs of political weakness were everywhere.
“The crisis that we face today has shown deadly signs of major national dysfunction. We cannot be a part the change if we were not part of the intergenerational solutions,” Molefe said.
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Young people were not jumping for joy at the thought of joining politics, as only about one-third of the population had any real voice in the society, while the rest were too poor or easily ignored by those in power, he said.
“People who have to rely on government have lost hope in that very government. They are seemingly giving up on democracy. Ask yourself why that is.”
Equal Education general secretary Noncedo Madubedube said people “really do believe in this idea of political reform and about the involvement of young people in political reform, whether its electoral or otherwise”.
Madubedube said it was important for people to understand that young people remain deeply let down by the constitution and by the principles and notion of democracy in this country.
“We don’t feel represented by the law, we don’t feel safe, we don’t feel that we are able to gainfully live in South Africa and that’s a crisis in itself,” she said.
“So, when Prof [Sandy Africa of the University of Pretoria] speaks of living through an insurrection, civic unrest will continue because young people in this country are idle.”
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