With the 2019 elections drawing nearer, political parties will be scrambling to compile and rally behind their election manifestos. More often than not, however, manifestos are inaccessible and when consulted, are unreflective of the views and needs of young people throughout the country. It is because of this that Youth Lab has embarked on the South African Youth Manifesto project.
This project takes the form of a book and is based on research conducted through policy conversations that sought to unearth the social, economic and political issues youth would like to engage on the run up to the 2019 election and beyond. The book serves as an agenda setting tool that gives a neutral voice to youth issues and challenges political parties to develop manifestos that respond to and better engage youth as a voting bloc. The book also advances an argument for youth as political agenda setters in African contexts.
In 2019 young people will make up a substantial potential voting block for the national and provincial elections. Unlike previous pre-election cycles, the 5 years between 2014 and 2019 have thus far seen a surge in youth participation in political life. With the rise of movements like #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall, the growing interest in parliament processes, anti-corruption movements and identity politics, young South Africans can no longer be described as politically apathetic. While many may be disenchanted with political parties, their interest in political participation is undoubtedly growing. Youth are going from the margins toward the center of political life.