South Africa


Disgruntled youth look to the DA for solutions

Disgruntled youth look to the DA for solutions
Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party members look on through a security fence during the party's 2019 Presidential Elections manifesto launch held at the Rand Staidum, Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 January 2019. The elections will be the country's fifth as the ruling ANC lose voters after corruption allegations, lack of service delivery, and the advent of other opposition parties. Elections will be on 08 May 2019. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

It is not usual in South African politics to think of young people as a significant part of the Democratic Alliance; it is customary to believe that the youth flocks to either the Economic Freedom Fighters or the ANC Youth League. However, if the DA’s manifesto launch is any indication, young people are finding relevance in the DA’s message of change.

In the early hours of Saturday, 23 February, Victor Makeke, a 24-year-old unemployed man from Roosenekal in Limpopo, woke and headed to the manifesto launch of the Democratic Alliance at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg. By 2am Makeke was waiting outside his shack where a taxi collected him and friends who live nearby and dropped them at a petrol station where they waited for a bus.

Accompanied by 60 others, some old, but mostly young people, they boarded the bus organised by a DA ward councillor in the Elias Motsoaledi Municipality. It has only been a month since Makeke joined the DA and he is hopeful about the change that the party promises it will bring. In the bus, people sang the whole way, shouting the praises of DA leader Mmusi Maimane and his vision of “One South Africa for all”.

Makeke was born on a farm where he lives with his family and where his father works and earns R2,500 a month. His mother and sister are also unemployed. When asked what type of change he expects from the DA, he simply said that all that he is asking for is “water and electricity”.

We have been living in poverty for far too long,” said Makeke.

Being unemployed has made him despondent. He has been a loyal supporter of the ANC since he began voting — he voted for them in the 2016 local government elections. But this time he is voting for the DA.

According to Makeke, what makes him “angry” is that the ANC gives jobs to its “brothers and sisters”. “They don’t empower me,” he said.

Things became worse for Makeke and his family when the “white farmer” sold his farm to another “white farmer”. The new owner shut down a borehole on the farm that the family was using for water. And when he complained to the ANC, they said it was a private farm, so there was nothing they could do.

Thozi Mokhotho from Philippolis in the Free State left earlier than Makeke. At 10pm on Friday night, she boarded a taxi full of DA supporters and headed for Johannesburg. At 25 she is unemployed and burdened with outstanding student fees from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), where she completed an education degree.

This will be the first time that she has voted. She plans to put her X firmly next to the DA in the 2019 national and provincial elections on 8 May. Her hope is that the party “will bring the change they have been talking about”, especially in creating jobs. Mokhotho realised that people in her area were joining the DA, so she too went to her ward councillor to become a member. He promised that he would help her with her fees.

Similarly, Nolubabalo Samela from Germiston, east of Johannesburg, who is unemployed and last voted in 2008 when she gave her vote to the ANC, plans on giving the DA a chance. She says she never goes hungry because a DA member in her area makes sure they have something to eat. Samela said she was willing to give the DA a chance because she sees the “service delivery and job-creation” in white suburbs where they govern and she wants that in her community as well.

If they (the DA) don’t do anything then we will vote them out,” said Samela.

It is these young people, unemployed in a faltering economy and disheartened by the failings of the ANC, that DA Youth leader Luyolo Mphithi hopes to win over for the party.

As the leader of youth within the DA, Mphithi plans to reach young people “outside the urban environment” — where the DA has been unable to get a foothold with voters. And it is by creating an environment in which “startups and entrepreneurs” can succeed that the DA plans to confront youth unemployment.

According to Mphithi, the DA also gives the youth, who have the “sheer passion alone to make a change”, an “opportunity to lead without needing struggle credentials”.

He has been a member of the DA for eight years, starting out in the student movement, Democratic Alliance Student Organisation at Wits University. He has since moved on to represent the party in government positions and was once a councillor at the age of 23.

Katlego Phala, 24, a DA member of the Limpopo provincial legislature and Luvo Vimbani, 23, a Nelson Mandela Bay city councillor, are examples Mphithi gave to demonstrate the party’s commitment to young people.

No other political party in South Africa can give young people the opportunity it has given me to change the country,” said Mphithi.

On Saturday, the crowds were entertained by musicians between brief addresses by DA regional leaders such as Herman Mashaba, Solly Msimang, John Moodley, Phumzile van Damme.

The leaders admitted to having once “regrettably voted” for the ANC, but said voters, especially the youth, should not be beholden to the liberation party.

By 1pm party leader, Mmusi Maimane took to the stage to deliver his speech and launch the manifesto. In it, he spoke about the party’s commitment to land reform through the handing out title deeds, fighting corruption and fair access to employment.

For Mphithi, title deeds hand people the “dignity” they deserve by giving them ownership of the land where they stay. Furthermore, the party says the government has 1.4 million hectares of land that it can distribute.

When asked about the perception that the DA is seen as a party for white people, Mphithi responded by pointing to the large crowd at the stadium, most of whom were black.

Mphithi said he came to a point in his life where he had to forgive a white woman who had treated his grandmother as a slave when they both lived in a back room of the home where she had been a domestic worker.

Hate will take us nowhere,” said Mphithi.

Rather than seeing the party in a racial way, young people in the DA seem to see the party as a frontrunner in the race debate. To them, it is the only party that does not racialise politics.

Mmusi Maimane is the leader and we can all see that the majority here is black people,” said Makeke.

He is impressed that “anyone can stand and lead in the DA”. He plans to participate in the party more and hopefully start a branch when he returns home.

Makeke says the “fighting approach” of the Economic Freedom Fighters worries him. All they want to do is fight, so he decided to join the DA instead.

Mokhotho also says he does not believe the DA is a white party, but rather a diverse “rainbow nation”. DM


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