Julius Sello Malema has persistently presented himself through his statements and actions as a significant voice for the economically disenfranchised in South Africa, particularly the youth. As a former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President, Malema’s popularity was once uncontested, both in the political and public landscape of South Africa, and in 2013 when this research was conducted – that is, after his expulsion from the ANC and before the establishment of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – he seemed to be a man descending from the height of his powers. This study unpacks the predicament of unemployed township youth in Johannesburg and how they understand their circumstances against the backdrop of and in relation to broader politics, in particularly the politics and political vision of Malema. Drawing on research material from four sets of focus groups, two conducted in Alexandra and two in Orlando (Soweto), involving 32 participants in total, this study reveals that the discourse of unemployed township youth is not fully usurped by Malema’s programme and extends beyond his politics. Malema’s discourse is relevant to young people in Johannesburg townships in so far as poverty and lack of opportunity is a South African reality for township youth. The unemployed black youth of Alexandra and Orlando craft and present their own explanations and solutions to their everyday lived experience of unemployment and poverty as they reflect on themselves as a collective with no economic power but as one with legitimate voting power. The study illuminates the battered self-esteem of unemployed black youth. It is argued that the injury to their self-esteem seems to provide a source of sufficient agency in that they express ideas that entail attempts to restore dignity by means of collective action.
Mini Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2016.