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Different political parties have made job promises in their election manifestos Picture: LUBA LESOLLE/GALLO IMAGES
Different political parties have made job promises in their election manifestos Picture: LUBA LESOLLE/GALLO IMAGES

According to data from the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC), of the 27,698, 197 registered voters, about 10-million (37%) are aged 18-39 years. This group faces a 70% unemployment rate.

The youth (18-35 years) did not live under apartheid and are not concerned with struggle icons and their associations with the governing ANC. As a consequence, they hold an instrumental conception of democracy. The instrumental or maximalist conception of democracy refers to the substantive elements of a democracy, the material benefits and socioeconomic goods a democratic government must provide to create material or socioeconomic equality.

The post-apartheid government has failed to create material or socioeconomic equality since the inception of democracy. To buttress this claim, a survey conducted by Afrobarometer in 2020 showed that 67% of respondents aged 18-35 were willing to forgo regular elections in favour of an unelected government that could impose law and order and deliver houses and jobs. This is an indication of the instrumental conception of democracy among the youth.

Against this backdrop it is necessary to outline why it is crucial for young people to participate in elections, as they carry the burden of unemployment. Elections have consequences on quality of life, and voting provides an opportunity to make one’s voice heard about the issues that affect individuals and their communities. Venting on social media or protesting in the streets may not be as potent as going to the voting booth.

Elections have consequences on your quality of life, and voting provides an opportunity to make one’s voice heard about the issues that affect individuals and their communities.

By not voting, one gives up one’s voice; elections are decided by those who vote and if you don’t, other people will make decisions for you: decisions that will affect your life for the next five years. After all, we all pay taxes, including VAT, and by voting, an individual has a say in how their money is spent.

Voting provides an opportunity for change, as we have already seen with the coalitions in some metropolitan municipalities where no single party can govern. Most importantly, the 18-35 generation has access to the internet and social media. We live in an information age, wherein information is easily accessible on our smartphones. This generation really does know best. Members are ahead of their parents in many respects, and armed with this knowledge must ensure that the country heads in the right direction.   

A manifesto contains a set of policies a political party stands for and would implement if it came into power after an election. In turn, the public policy of any government should be viewed as the election manifesto of the party that occupies governmental power. This is why we need to familiarise ourselves with the various manifestos of competing parties as we head to the 2024 general election.

In this piece, we will focus on the job promises of different political parties in their election manifestos. Seventy percent youth unemployment is not the only concern for voters; public and private sector corruption, violent crime, gender-based violence, femicide, immigration, an energy crisis and water scarcity are also significant issues.

Below is a brief presentation of how the main political parties say they intend to tackle unemployment. 


  • Put South Africans to work through a jobs plan and public and social employment programmes,
  • Implement a public employment plan to absorb unemployed graduates, 
  • Provide state support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), co-operatives and entrepreneurs in townships,
  • Create 1-million work opportunities, and
  • Continue to monitor and enforce employment equity to ensure that blacks, women and people living with disabilities are better represented in the workforce. 


  • Create 2-million new jobs through flexible labour legislation and upskilling the existing workforce,
  • Abolish cadre deployment in favour of merit-based recruitment,
  • One year paid work experience for matriculants, 
  • Job centres with advice, information and free internet 
  • Funding assistance and less red tape to help SMEs grow, 
  • Jobs Act to encourage businesses and individuals to invest, and
  • Prosecute and eliminate “sex for jobs”, “cash for jobs”, nepotism and “carpet interviews”. 


  • Create 9-million new jobs mainly through state-sponsored or protected industrialisation, 
  • Create a state-owned bank, security and insurance companies, 
  • Nationalise the SA Reserve Bank and expand its mandate to include job creation and economic growth, 
  • Import substitution-led economic growth or localisation, 
  • Ensure municipalities award tenders or contracts to local SMEs, 
  • Subsidise patriotic entrepreneurs who open factories, firms and other enterprises in rural areas, and 
  • Subsidise and provide other incentives for the local agriculture industry. 


  • Enforce employment targets for SA companies and ensure they employ a minimum of 80% South Africans,
  • Reserve entry-level and low-skill sector employment for South Africans, 
  • Expropriate foreign-owned spaza shops and give them to South African youths, 
  • Focus on SME and local business development, specifically for the youth, 
  • Support the development of the cannabis industry to create jobs,
  • Recommit some of the money in the sector education and training authorities to the provision of 12-month public sector internships, and
  • Withdraw restrictive labour legislation that impedes job creation. 

FF Plus:

  • Cut red tape and reduce industry regulation to grow the economy and create jobs, 
  • Build the economy by creating a free market and protecting private property rights, 
  • Restore reliable electricity supply, 
  • Promote conditions that are favourable for agriculture, forestry and fisheries while protecting food security, and
  • Build wealth through true empowerment without race-based affirmative action and BEE, and promote equal access to opportunities. 

Action SA: 

  • Launch programmes to create 4.8-million new jobs in the private sector,
  • Support entrepreneurs, decrease the cost of doing business and re-establish SA as a foreign investment destination, 
  • Promite industries with high potential for job creation such as green energy, mining, agriculture and emerging technologies, 
  • Reform labour laws and minimum wage legislation to make it easier for new businesses to hire and fire, 
  • Reclaim hijacked buildings and unused factories for private use or development to provide affordable accommodation close to job opportunities, 
  • Invest in new universities and TVET colleges, and reintroduce specialised colleges to train teachers, police officers, agricultural workers and nurses, and
  • Incentivise local and international businesses to invest in abandoned industrial areas to create employment.

African Transformation Movement: 

  • Construct factories to provide mass employment,
  • Ensure that at least 50% of government spending is directed at SMEs, 
  • Introduce local processing of minerals (beneficiation) and only export finished goods, 
  • Restructure and protect the local informal sector producing essential household commodities and ensure diversification in the informal economy, 
  • Ensure South Africans produce what they use and limit imports through government preference and protection of SA-owned SMEs, 
  • Put SA first by reserving low-skill or entry-level employment for South Africans, and
  • Generate toll revenue through the Cape of Good Hope sea route. 

Rise Mzansi: 

  • Resuscitate nursing and teaching colleges, 
  • Ensure critical skills development and upskilling of the unemployed youth, 
  • Provide venture capital to young entrepreneurs, 
  • Invest in local and regional infrastructure and offer skills training to the people, 
  • Create a job-seeker package for young people to access data, essentials and transport, 
  • Ensure meritocratic recruitment and reduce experience requirements for entry-level employment, and
  • Invite foreign direct investment, fix load-shedding and ensure education responds to the needs of the economy or gaps in the market 

MK party: 

  • Create 5-million jobs within five years through investment in mining, agriculture, re-industrialisation, tourism and infrastructure development,
  • End reliance on foreign investment by building domestic manufacturing and tradable services through a market-related skills approach and enforce a skills transfer from foreign nationals to locals,
  • Place industrialisation, developmental financial institutions (DFIs) and natural resource processing at the centre of a revised National Development Plan (NDP) and reverse state-owned enterprise (SOE) privatisation in favour of nationalisation, 
  • Renationalise ArcelorMittal (steel sector) in pursuit of local minerals beneficiation,
  • Renationalise Sasol to secure liquid fuels supply and developmentally priced petroleum and chemical products in the domestic economy,
  • Nationalise and reconstitute the Reserve Bank to ensure it has a strong developmental focus that is interwoven with a network of DFIs, and 
  • Fund SMEs owned by blacks, women the youth and military veterans to create jobs. 

Patriotic Alliance: 

  • Remove red tape to attract big and small investment, 
  • Partner with the private sector to open multiple factories, 
  • Use SA’s natural resources endowments to become the next Dubai,
  • Fix public infrastructure (roads, water, sanitation) and turn to solar energy (build solar farms), 
  • Partner with the private sector to build farms, mainly poultry, and 
  • Encourage entrepreneurship through business-friendly regulations. 

This information is intended to help voters make an informed decision on May 29, in line with the issues that affect their lives and communities.

• Mvenene, a PhD candidate at Nelson Mandela University, teaches political studies at Walter Sisulu University. 

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