President Jacob Zuma’s calls for a new focus on job creation and improved education for the youth appear to ring hollow in their ears, with nearly a third (29 percent) of respondents in a survey among young people saying they don’t believe anything he says.
The survey, conducted by consumer insights company Pondering Panda, found that a further 39 percent of the 10 246 young South Africans surveyed felt Zuma was not doing as much as he could to improve their lives. It found that only 32 percent of the sample took Zuma at face value, believing he was doing his best to make things better.
Pondering Panda – a member of the World of Avatar group, which owns Mxit – used cellphones to gather the data for the poll in the wake of Zuma’s comments at the opening of the ANC policy conference in Midrand last week, where he called for a “giant leap” in economic transformation efforts.
The conference appeared to spell the end of the government’s proposed youth wage subsidy and the adoption, instead, of a “job-seekers grant”.
The ANC also proposed community service for all tertiary students, who would be compelled to do an internship of at least a year in the service of the state after graduating, similar to that done by medical graduates in state hospitals.
And the conference directed that a policy for free higher education for all undergraduate-level students, from poor and working-class communities, must be finalised for the party’s elective conference in December for phased implementation as soon as possible.
The party’s 2007 national conference saw a strong call for free tertiary education for all, but this has not materialised.
There was also a proposal for unemployed youths to be taken up in a compulsory youth service to give them skills and work experience.
These proposals have been welcomed by the ANC Youth League. They will be fleshed out at the ANC’s national conference in December, after the party’s branches have discussed them and fine-tuned details of their possible implementation.
Only the national conference can make changes to ANC policy, which is then supposed to feed into government programmes.
The survey was aimed at measuring Zuma’s credibility among young South Africans on delivering on his promises relating to education and unemployment.
The company has, in the past seven months, used cellphones to conduct more than 1 million interviews with the youth on a variety of topics.
The respondents came from throughout the country, with nearly all of them aged 34 years and younger, and 51 percent of the sample aged between 18 and 24.
“The results show that President Zuma’s credibility has taken a serious knock among young people, with many of his promises falling on deaf ears,” said Butch Rice, of Pondering Panda.
“Quite simply, many young people just don’t believe anything he says – a damning indictment of our president when it comes to young South Africans struggling to achieve a better future. His relatively stronger scores among the poor might well be an indication that efforts to alleviate the plight of the poor are starting to bear fruit. However, even there his credibility levels are alarmingly low.”
Pondering Panda found significant demographic differences in opinion, with 41 percent of young black South Africans coming out as the most positive about Zuma’s efforts and believing in the sincerity of his efforts. Just under half of the Indian and white respondents said they did not believe anything he said.