New polling data has provided unique insight into the principles, attitudes, concerns and ambitions of young South Africans (ages 18-24) ahead of the nation’s rapidly approaching general elections on May 8th.

The verdict? South Africa’s young people are increasingly concerned about their future, as well as the future of their country, presenting the Rainbow Nation’s democracy with systemic challenges today faced by numerous countries across the globe.

Commissioned by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a South African charitable organization, the findings revealed that respondents feel limited by the choices on the ballot. 58% of those polled would vote in favor of the African National Congress (ANC), 12% for the Democratic Alliance (DA) and 9% suggesting they would vote in favor of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

However, while 76% of young South Africans are planning to participate in the sixth elections since the end of apartheid, an astonishing 21% are as yet unsure of who they will vote for. Only half of young South Africans polled voted in the last election, with small percentages (12%) reporting having an interest in seeking elected office or interest in participating in political demonstrations (16%). These findings are ultimately indicative of deeper trends amongst South Africa’s youth, where trust in institutions and political parties has reached alarming lows.

In fact, many young South Africans feel neither represented nor excited by the nation’s leadership and direction, with some 52% of respondents stating that they are distrustful of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. When asked which word best described feelings on South Africa’s future, 42% identified ‘concerned’. This points to swelling uncertainty about the future of prospects for the nation.

As that nation prepares to head to the polls, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Ichikowitz Foundation, philanthropist Ivor Ichikowitz, believes that it is imperative to consider the impacts that young South Africans’ declining trust and confidence in the nation’s democratic system could pose to its democracy at large.

“Our findings indicate that South Africa faces challenges not unlike those of other democracies across the world in the modern age, with our youth expressing deep concerns regarding the state of the nation and its ability to work for the people. However, while lack of faith in both our institutions and political parties is clearly low, there is reason to believe that our historic determination to foster greater social cohesion will prevail. As the nation prepares to head to the ballot box, we must all consider the impacts that declining trust and confidence could have on our democracy – and how to change the narrative to a more optimistic outlook,” Ichikowitz stated.

“I’ve always believed that the future of our country is assured by the optimism, energy and resilience of our youth. It was their voices throughout history that led by example and spearheaded change in South Africa. These findings should be deemed an alarm call that must be heeded by our nation’s leadership; they need to result in a call to action by the new government. Should they fail to do so,  the future of our country’s 25-year ‘Democratic Experiment’ will be placed at risk”.

In 2016, the Ichikowitz Foundation launched the award-winning #IAMCONSTITUTION campaign; – a national movement that encourages all South Africans to read, embrace and live the Constitution; “…to celebrate the achievements of South Africa and constructively confront challenges to reach the country’s fullest potential”