While the reality might be different across the world, the South Africa political landscape and space for public engagement/activism has changed significantly over the past two decades. This change has led to a change in the way people engage with the government as well as address issues which stem from decisions made by the government. One difference between the South African case and that of the rest of the world is that the government has historically been a site of distrust for the majority of citizens. Apartheid meant that only a small, white minority enjoyed the government benefits at the expense of everyone else.

Even though political liberation came 23 years ago, the remnants of the apartheid system are still tangible in many parts of the country. Due to astronomical youth unemployment and inequality, the latent effects of apartheid are affecting the youth most significantly. Being born shortly before or after political liberation, millennials were fed the dream of a South Africa unlike that of our parents: An equal South Africa where people are treated with dignity and respect regardless of race or socio-economic standing. Unfortunately, this has not been realised, making the areas in which this disparity is most pronounced the sites for millennial political activism.

Three of the most notable movements involving young people within Cape Town are, the fight for safe access to sanitation (main organisations involved: The Social Justice Coalition; Ndifuna Ukwazi), The fight for a university curriculum which speaks to an African reality as opposed to a Euro-American reality and the fight for free tertiary education (movements involved: #RhodesMustFall/#FeesMustFall), The fight for urban land justice and the end of continued forced removals by the City of Cape Town (main organisations involved: Reclaim the City; Ndifuna Ukwazi). All of these movements have and continue to fight for the rights of the majority of citizens where the government has only prioritised the needs of the few.

Obviously, this form of political activism, which is much more community centred, does not involve all millennials. We are too diverse a group in terms of political beliefs, interests, and desires to make sweeping generalisations about what gets us motivated. That being said, there are commonalities which we have to recognise whether we’d like to or not. We have inherited a world which can no longer sustain the level of consumption and natural resource use our parents’ generation became accustomed to; globalisation has led to increased levels of migration, increasing the need for tolerance of cultural diversity; and the levels of inequality which continues to rise is not only unsustainable but increasingly becomes a security risk across the world.

In order to cope with this reality, millennials are being forced to do things differently and to see things differently in order to survive in the world we were born into. This includes mobilising around political and social issues in a way generations before us did not, and using resources, like technology and social media,  which were not available in years gone by.


Picture Credit: http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/western-cape/petition-against-sale-of-tafelberg-remedial-school-2033402