Article by Zinhle Mbanjwa

South Africa was busy with the vaccine roll-outs when the violent protests hit the country. As part of the lockdown, schools are on the month long closure, an absolute devastation for many young people in the Townships and Rural Areas who do not have the means to attend the online classes.

Most of them took part in the looting last week, apart from that unfortunate activity, you will find them loitering on the streets. Therefore I decided to have a mini conversation with them about everything that is happening in the country, some requested to be anonymous for this conversation and here is how it went:

“So last week wena my sister was hectic, we joined in the action as well” said one of the young men. “It didn’t feel like an unlawful thing at a time, it felt like we’re taking something for free nje, the cops were there also taking stuff as well” he says.

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“We didn’t have food at home so my mom said we can go and take some,” said a young 14 year old girl. “I know what we did was wrong, but everyone went ukuyotapa (loot), so we couldn’t have just stayed behind while there’s no food for us” concludes the young girl.

While it is evident that most of the young people involved, for them it was just an energetic exercise, an urge to do something or be part of something. Therefore the violent protests were a perfect storm for that energy.

“We’re sitting at home, all we ever hear is vaccine this and vaccine that, no one is telling us why there have to be a vaccine for old people and vaccine for young people, why can’t they vaccinate us as a family with the same vaccine?” the 16 year old Sne Thusi, who’s in Grade 11 asks.

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“Look my sister, we can’t even play soccer at the moment, it is frustrating to just sit and do nothing. The other countries are enjoying their lives as we have seen in the Euros 2020, but we’re sitting at home frustrated, this is depressing” says Bongani who is in Grade 12.

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From these conversations the lack of trust in officials comes out strongly, “I don’t trust most of the stuff the government tells us, I don’t watch the news but I mean, we see on social media, government is hiding a lot from people about these vaccines, our parents are losing their jobs, what it’s going to be like when we finish school? what kind of a world are we coming into?” asks Owethu Malinga, a 17 year old boy in Grade 12.

“People were angry about Zuma, that is why there were violent protests, but they were already angry about the lockdowns, our lives are boxed, we don’t know what is normal anymore, I miss my friends at school. If people do not do something productive with their lives then they will do something destructive” Bongani jumps in.

Young people feel like they are being robbed of their youthfulness and they feel that there is not enough information shared about vaccines. They panic about the world they are growing up in and have questions about the world they are coming into after completing school.

These are important concerns which need adults who can help guide us as young people, adults who will help to ease the panic and the uncertainty that we live under.

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