Opportunities and challenges of youth engagement : the South African context.
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Contemporary democracies are faced with the mounting challenge of non-participation of citizens in the politics of the state. In most cases the reasons for non-participation primarily stem from the state’s incapacity to create sufficient platforms to encourage the meaningful participation of the citizens in policy making. In developing countries this trend has been more conspicuous amongst young people. This is largely due to the fact that the global trend of the ‘youth bulge’ is more prominent in developing countries. But it should be noted that the need for the participation of young people in the politics of state is even more critical in developing countries; and this is so because if the trend of the youth bulge continues, the youth will in time, constitute the majority of the population in most of these countries. The main argument of this dissertation is that the inclusion of the youth in political decision making is vital in creating a sense of belonging in the state. The most unfortunate consequence of the youth feeling alienated from the state is that the youth is often lured into participating in violent activities against the state. These include, among many, terrorism and violent protest against the state. In South Africa where youth voter turnout has been declining and where the youth are often involved in violent protest, the successful inclusion of the youth in decision making should be a state priority. Notably, the state has since 1994 passed various legislations which attempt to empower and include the youth. This dissertation is a qualitative study of this legislation. The main aim is to assess whether the legislation has achieved its goal of empowering and including the youth in state affairs. Utilizing Hart’s Ladder of Participation as a framework, the study further assesses to what extent has the legislation been able to offer the South African youths genuine opportunities to participate in the politics of the country.