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Country analysis > South Africa Last update: 2020-11-27  

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Centre for Policy Studies (CPS)

Identity crisis? Youth, social and political identity in South Africa

Policy: issues and actors Vol 19 no 4

Malachia Mathoho and Kirty Ranchod

Centre for Policy Studies (CPS)

March 2006

SARPN acknowledges the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) as the source of this document:
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In good part, “the consolidation of South Africa’s democracy depends on the socialisation of youth into a ‘good’ adult citizenry and their integration into society and polity”. However, in order to engage the youth more actively in political activity it is essential that we are able to understand the type of culture that has been created amongst the youth since 1990 (when the liberation movements were unbanned), and how this has shaped their identity.

The paper will centre on youth identity: but in order to do so it will have to illustrate the status of the youth and the challenges they currently face within the South African society. The paper will provide an overview of some of the organisations that have been created to assist the youth and some of the ways in which they contribute to youth development and the consolidation of South Africa’s democracy as well as their role in shaping youth identity. Youth participation in political activities and democracy and their voting patterns in the county’s elections will also be discussed.

Youth in South Africa are faced with a number of challenges such as more active participation in politics, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, poverty, unemployment, crime and a lack of education. All of these factors influence the way in which the youth identifies itself and how it interacts within society - especially how it integrates into society. Some 80% of young people live in the developing world, and almost 40% of the South African population are between the ages of 14 and 35. In this age cohort people are subject to many changes: from school to higher education or the world of work; from being single to being married and/or supporting dependents (and therefore of necessity becoming more responsible); contributing more to the wider society through employment and other social and political activities. So their importance in the functioning and building of healthy democracies cannot be overlooked.

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