Youth apathy

Young Namibians are accused of being quick to vent their frustrations on social media, but failing to vote.

14 May 2019 | Politics

Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo says he is concerned that disillusioned young people seem to be increasingly shunning elections.

He highlighted the registration of youth voters for the upcoming Ondangwa Urban constituency by-election as a case in point.

“You can see only a few young people have registered there. It is a clear indication that the majority that will vote in that election will be the elders and not the youth,” he said. This comes amid criticism that Namibian youth are quick to vent their frustrations on social media, but fail to vote.

Namibia is heading into election season, with the National Assembly and presidential polls set to take place in November.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has announced it is targeting to register an extra 300 000 eligible voters this year.

This would increase those on the national voters roll from 1.2 million to 1.5 million.

The ECN recorded 508 459 youth voters in 2014, which represents 44 % of the overall number of registered voters.

Nekongo believes that poor youth participation in elections was the result of youth not understanding democratic processes, while older voters religiously vote out of the fear that apartheid will return. “We must not shy away from the fact that some youth are frustrated with the conditions they are living in and they have lost faith in the voting process,” Nekongo said.

Social activist Rosa Namises believes disillusionment among youth is an indictment on political leaders, who are often implicated in corruption and maladministration.

Namises, who is a former parliamentarian, said political leaders have failed to entice the youth.

“As a result, young people believe that the status quo will remain, whether they vote or not. Young people look at their families and see there are no benefits from voting. They tell themselves that 'people are eating alone, so I will not give them my vote',” she said.

Unam political science professor Lesley Blaauw said it is difficult to establish why youth are the least interested segment in society, when it comes to voting.

In his view, political parties must zoom in on the issues that affect young people proportionately more than other segments of society. “Issues such as the availability of land… clearly buying a house is something that should be of interest. Unemployment is an issue that should be of concern to them. Maybe that can evoke reaction on their part,” he said.

He added many political parties fail to use platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to engage the youth.

“We also have youth who do not have access to these things. In my view if you want to get your message across then you must use a mixture of methods to get your message about the issues out,” he said.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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