To depart with, the layout of this essay draws much from the two political periods of SA, namely; the Mbeki era and the current Zuma era. It is more important that we view these eras as the most important political epochs that influenced the political landscapes in SA, the election processes and the degree to which the young generation have been politically active or if not so, suffered from mental “political darkness”.
A point to bear in mind though is; the role of the opposition parties is not ignored in totality in this essay as the ANC-led government is used as the core actor or instigator of SA’s political activity.
President Mbeki’s government was which one many may argue that, was more focused on economic growth and rebuilding the African continental structures. This was witnessed by the economic policies which were applied during his tenure at the helm of the state, such as the GEAR and as for Africa, by the role of SA in reviving the then inept OAU. During this era one may be quick to point out that the political dynamics within the ruling party seemed at sanity as the infighting within the ruling party was not publicised as it has recently. The re-election of Mbeki for the second term as both the head of state and the ANC substantiates such claim.
The young generation during Mbeki era was not politically vocal as the status quo within the state and party politics was well maintained. The ANC youth wing was well behaved and therefore giving a practical indication that the young generation was not interested in the political affairs. In regards to the elections, the fair and free elections of 2004 showed that the state’s politics were nowhere near hints of turmoil. The remarkable win by the ANC further proved that the masses, including the young generation, were content with state politics.
Then came the famous Polokwane ANC elective conference (Dec 2007). The conference came at the time when the Mbeki era was faced with lots of criticism from those who were calling themselves the “forces of change” within the echelons of Luthuli House. It must be mentioned that, the formation of such a faction drew much from the expulsion of Zuma from the cabinet by Mbeki amid his alleged involvement in the corruption case levelled against his ally, Shabir Schaik. The constitutional route took by Mbeki on Zuma, as a cabinet member, was viewed by this faction as politically incorrect.
This faction prior to Polokwane presented SA politics with the then ANCYL leader, Julius Malema. Malema was amongst the vocal opponents of Mbeki in the build-up to Polokwane ANC conference. With his political gift of the gab, he aroused the political awareness of the great portion of the SA young generation. At Polokwane Mbeki was ousted by Zuma and his camp, and ultimately recalled from the head of state position by the then Zuma-led ANC’s NEC. This was the unprecedented move ever in the SA politics; Rev. Frank Chikane mentions that in his book (8 days in September).
“In the run-up to the 2014 elections and in an attempt to get the approximately 4 million young people registered and ready to vote, organisations such as the IEC are making every effort to educate the youth on the importance of voting” wrote Lauren Tracey of the ISS in her article:
This may be equated to as suggesting that the young generation has been identified by the IEC as partly politically aware which might be contributing to their voting apathy.