In Auckland Park, Johannesburg, home to two of the city’s main universities, throngs of students on Wednesday waited patiently in long queues to cast their votes, some for the first time.
Their main hope is for a government with a decisive plan to grow the economy and create jobs.
“I am quite aware that I may not immediately find a job after finishing my university degree,” said Mpho Moleketsi, a third year electrical engineering student at the University of Johannesburg.
The 21-year-old said he had observed how political parties used the promise of job creation as a tool to attract votes, but said he was not convinced that there was an “overnight solution” to the country’s economic problems.
“I know that my vote may not count for anything, but I hope the party that I have voted for will make good on its promises of delivering jobs and building a strong economy,” he said. “We need a government with a plan, a concrete plan on how to tackle the painful reality of the lack of job opportunities in the country.”
‘Emigrating not an option’
Young South Africans have been hardest hit by the country’s 27.1% unemployment rate. The official jobless statistics for people exclude those who have given up looking for work.
In November 2018, a StatsSA report revealed that the youth unemployment rate for those who have a tertiary qualification had increased to over 20%.
In Johannesburg, desperate and unemployed graduates had taken to standing at street corners begging for employment from passing motorists, while others use social media to highlight their plight.
“We want to be hired after finishing our studies. Unlike some of my classmates at university, I can’t afford to pack my bags and leave the country if things do not work out for me. Emigrating is not an option,” said Moleketsi.
Despite promises by political parties to grow the economy, projections by local and international institutions paint a bleak picture about the country’s growth prospects.
The International Monetary Fund in April lowered South Africa’s projected GDP growth rate for 2019 from 1.4% to 1.2%, citing policy low investor confidence and challenges of insufficient electricity supply. On Monday, meanwhile, NKC African Economics reported that the SA economy may have contracted in the first quarter of the year.
Further down the road from the University of Johannesburg, 19-year-old Karl Oberholzer couldn’t hide his excitement from casting his vote for the first time.
“I am aware of the problems facing the country. As a young person I want to vote in a party that would rid the country of corruption.
“Investors won’t be eager to come here if we are known as a corrupt country,” he said.
According to the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) young people make the largest number of registered voters.
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