Election 2024: A millennial coming of age

Zohra Teke is an investigative journalist and independent contributor. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Zohra Teke is an investigative journalist and independent contributor. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Published May 31, 2024


By Zohra Teke

With young people making up to 43% of registered voters in this election, this was their time. They made their mark in KZN especially where they drove the narrative - and ultimately the MK party coup which is now emerging as the winner in the province. How did it happen?

Ironically, it began with the EFF. That seed of political conscientising in the youth was planted in 2013 when they burst onto the political scene.

Take Nkulu, he was born in 1994, the year of our first democratic elections. He was 19 when the EFF was formed, ripe for the picking for the red berets under leadership of Julius Malema. The EFF's bombastic, defiance drew in the youth en masse back then.

But, Nkulu is now 31 and has matured. No longer an angry 19-year-old. A millennial who's come of age. And with that, a shift in political mindset.

Enter the 2024 elections, and the power of the born free vote. A political maturity. This, as many young voters have said, was their 1994 moment.

"I used to support Malema when I was younger. But now that I'm older, his anger doesn't appeal to me. He is focused on dividing us as a nation when we need to work together," Nkulu tells me. Its an interesting insight.

In KZN, the MK Party, the new kid on the block, draws the same appeal as the EFF did - but more.

The MK party has given the youth a sense of identity, a political home which reflects their traditional values - and this distinguishes it from the EFF. KZN remains largely polarised. Still a province driven by identity politics where the pride of the Zulu Kingdom reigns supreme. The EFF does not reflect that Zulu pride.

MK does. Zuma does, and that's why youth voted overwhelmingly MK, catapulting the party into KZN's winning party, despite its public battles and having been formed less than six months ago. In the end, nothing could come between that perceived fierce protection of Zulu values which MK is seen to represent.

"We need to protect our identity as the Zulu nation and MK is seen as the party to do that. Yes, many of our gogos still feel their owe loyalty to the ANC because of Mandela and all that, but as the youth that's not our legacy. We don't know suffering under apartheid but we know suffering of unemployment under the ANC. Look how many young people can't find jobs today, even as graduates," adds Nkulu.

But its also interesting to reflect on why some turned away from the EFF beyond the political maturity.

"Eish, you know, I supported EFF previously, but not any more. I don't agree with their policy about open borders. This thing about wanting to have free borders and let everyone from Africa come to South Africa is not good. Especially when we are battling to find jobs as young people. That's why I gave my vote to MK provincially," Londy, a 25-year- old waitress in Durban tells me.

She laughs before adding: "But you know what, I voted DA for national." She seems slightly embarrassed by this admission, but relieved to have confessed. I look at her, surprised by this revelation.

"Eish, I know," she says, understanding my look. "Why?" I ask, intrigued.

"MK is not ready nationally, they are still a new party so I don't trust them to just govern nationally. I think DA is still safe nationally, they can make a change, better than the ANC. MK needs the experience but for KZN they okay for now. They will protect us Zulus," she laughs again, this time comfortable, convinced by her decision.

*Zohra Teke is an investigative journalist and independent contributor

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of IOL or Independent Media.

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