For me this year is so exciting and also so challenging. I am going to university for the first time and I will be voting for the first time. I am so proud to be part of what is called the Born Free generation – those of us who were born after the first democratic elections in April 1994 and so who only know about Apartheid from our school books.
I’m really aware of what a privilege and also what a responsibility it is to be able to vote. That’s why I registered as soon as I could and I’ve been encouraging my friends and classmates to register. I keep reminding them that this weekend (8th and 9th February) is their last chance. People my age who have never voted – we have to register. But also people who have voted before but have since moved house – they have to register at their new local polling station otherwise they may not be able to vote on the day.
For me, my vote is my voice. It is my way to be heard and to make changes in society. I realise that things don’t change overnight but it’s only by voting that we have any chance of seeing change happen in time. Things certainly don’t just happen on their own.
I get so frustrated when people – especially those my age – tell me that they are not going to register. They are complaining all the time about the state of the schools they went to, or the high cost of varsity education, or the lack of youth development, or the lack of jobs. But I don’t think they are entitled to complain about things if they don’t use one of the main ways they have of giving their input. We can put a party into power – and we can put a party out of power.
But I think one of the problems is that they don’t know enough about what is going on. We at least are lucky because we have access to the internet. I know it’s much worse for my cousins in rural areas, and their families, where there are very few computers and no free newspapers. Without that they don’t even know what the parties stand for or what they are promising or whether they are keeping their promises. They really need to be given a reason to register and a reason to vote.
I know that many people feel they have no voice – they are battling to be heard and to get the attention they deserve. At least if you are registered to vote you have one clear way of making your voice heard. Use it!
Ntombizodwa Buthelezi is 7 months younger than South African democracy. She was born in Orlando West in Soweto, just metres away from the former homes of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, and from where the Soweto uprising began and where children her parents’ age died on the streets. After Matric she met the Jesuit Institute as part of our BizSchool programme and has spent the last year working as our office intern. She has just started studying politics at the University of Johannesburg Young people like Zodwa give us hope for our future and for hers.