It would seem that unemployment plays a major part in feeding the economic alienation of the youth. However, economic alienation is only one side of the coin. Political alienation is also a factor that contributes to the increase in violent protests.
Of the approximately 2 million 18 to 19-year olds eligible to vote in the 2014 elections,only 31% registered to vote. This, according to the report, is an indicator of ignorance, indifference or alienation. Naturally, voting is not the only form of political participation. Service delivery protests, which are becoming increasingly violent, are composed in part by the 3 million born-frees who are not employed, educated or trained. Protests which have become increasingly violent are an indicator of a lack of faith in the democratic system. According to Dr Indran Naidoo, director of independent evaluation of the United Nations development programme, there has been “much progress over the past two decades for the born-frees, but the structural and socio-economic legacy, informed by decades of apartheid, continue to mire development, and often the gains made.” He added that the study falls short in its analysis as it assumes development is linear, and does not appreciate the complexity of development. Dr Naidoo added that, “The political participation rates of youth indicate high disillusionment with political parties and the drop in the support of the ruling party – and rise in the opposition – reflect that the youth do not view the transition in the positive terms of the older generation. They do not really know the past but have simply been born into a situation which is legally free and theoretically optimal – but practically impossible to transcend due to the issue of geography – most race groups remain in the same apartheid areas – and thus suffer spatial access.” The report is not only a critical analysis of the current situation that the born-frees find themselves in, but also provides proposals intending to help rectify the problem.
Included are proposals suggesting that racial legislation be repealed and racial preferencing policies be abandoned as they impose costs on the economy, thereby reducing its growth rate and its capacity to absorb born-frees. According to Prof. Karin van Marle of the Department of Jurisprudence at UP, the constitutional mandate requires transformation. She continued by saying, “At the head of this is socio-economic upliftment and social justice.” According to Prof. van Marle, as per section 9 of the Constitution, freedom before the law and freedom from discrimination are guaranteed to the people of South Africa. As such it protects the substantive notion of equality created by racial preferencing legislation. Racial preferencing is within the values of the constitution. The poor are not sufficiently included within the political and economic spectrum, and according to Prof. van Marle, poor black women are the worst affected by this.
Labour law adjustments have been proposed, such as enacting legislation aimed to prevent union officials and minority groups of workers from imposing strike action on other workers. Policing and prosecution of those using violence to enforce strikes must also be more efficient. An economic outlook was presented by Old Mutual Investment Group SA (Omigsa) on Wednesday 13 May. According to Omigsa’s chief economist Rian le Roux, “If labour is not very productive and you have all the work stoppages, plus the wage rates are going up well above inflation‚ you cannot expect a lot of job creation.”
South Africa has one of the most advanced constitutions in the world. It is based on the values of democracy, freedom, equality, human dignity and social justice. However, this is only theoretical. In practice there is a wide gap between the law and the fulfilment of its aims due to unemployment which creates a bifurcated society. Thus, the poorer members of society are confined to the prison of economic and political alienation and they are unable to access the rights that have been provided to them.
The words of former president Nelson Mandela encapsulate what needs to be done for the youth to progress: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Violence cannot be used to create progress. Effective economic and political participation is the key to creating opportunities for the born-frees. These interrelated dimensions have to be developed to enable the post-apartheid generation to break free from the legacy of inequality.
Image: Michal-Maré Linden