‘The opportunity for votes lies with the disenfranchised’ – Chris Pappas Q&A

Coming off the back of his speech at BNC#4, Chris Pappas answers questions regarding his hope of ending the disenchantment of the youth and the voters in general, the difficulties posed by the ANC and predictions for 2024.

Excerpts from Chris Pappas’ Q&A at BNC#4

Chris Pappas on Athol Trollip’s comment about the lack of responsibility from the youth and whether he sees himself as an exception

I think the two are not linked. I think that, yes, young people do want self-gratification and, you know, as with previous generations, you know, upward mobility. So different generations have different things that they expect and different characteristics. But I don’t think that means that young people are dismissive of the problems that we face and the desire to solve them. I just think the political system and the social system that we exist in does not cater for the type of involvement that young people want to be involved in, or the activities that they want to get involved in. And I don’t think I’m an exception so far as being passionate about wanting to see change. I think there’s many, many people – I mean, people wouldn’t come out to Cathedral, I mean, to the mountains, to Champagne Sports – if they weren’t passionate about change. But I do think that the rigidity of the mechanisms for creating change do discourage young people from participating. 

On whether uMngeni municipality has a youth leadership development programme

Yes, we do have a youth department. When we got into government, the budget was 1 million rand for various development programmes and we’ve increased that to one and a half million rand. So we’ve been trying to put resources towards that. What we also found is that this is generally an office that is abused for, for events, for some sort of political showpiece, usually the money spent before some sort of a rally or, you know, elections which we’re investigating at the moment. But there was no meaningful contribution to improving young people’s lives. So I say this because as a municipality, we are also an employer. 

It’s hard to employ young people. It’s hard to employ young people because of the level of education, experience, and lack of preparedness for the workplace. So we’re redirecting that budget to make more meaningful interventions. We’re partnering with a number of social partners where we look at the skills needed by the local economy and rather train young people in the skills deficit, even if it’s as a barista or, someone how to fold a bed in a hotel, skills where they’ll actually be absorbed into our local economy – so we’re doing that. We’re also trying to make young people more employable. So we have a work readiness programme that starts to be rolled out. Tomorrow is the first day -with a number of programmes, a shift away from big stadium top events where you put up a stage and you pay the local guy 15,000 rand to be an emcee knowing that you’ll write nice things about you on Facebook during election times. So to make them more meaningful interventions, they’re the next step to see how we can better partner with the private sector. So to go to a big employer and say, can we fund or partly fund the salary of a young person for a year who can then get some sort of experience, can then benefit from that? And we are in discussions with a number of the bigger companies in the area about things like that. So it’s just making more meaningful interventions in youth development. 

On what the ANC has done to make life in his new role difficult and what can be done to highlight and prevent this

So they’re not a very good opposition, but I assume they’ll get better over time. I jokingly told them in council one day that if they want lessons in being in opposition, I’m happy to help them. but they’re still in a government mindset that’s in council. But on the ground, it’s to try and destabilise the government by using policy issues that they themselves voted into government, for example, trying to decrease electricity theft and use it as a political tool to destabilise us, to plant seeds with the traditional leadership that, the DA white government doesn’t want to work with you and we’ve actually done more for them than the ANC government has in the last nine months. So it’s those sort of underground tactics that they use  and this frustrates some of my caucus members. But the goal is to do what we promised we said we would do – to make sure that if your community was dirty, it becomes clean. If you had problems with your local hall, fix the hall because it’s through doing what we promised that we beat the ANC at what they think is a strategy that is going to work for them. They haven’t changed their strategy. They lost the elections because they had a poor strategy and poor decision-making and that strategy is continuing. They haven’t learnt from their mistakes. So if we do what we said we would do and we do it well and they continue to do what they think is going to get them back into power, then inevitably we will do better than them. That’s the ANC mentality – they don’t change. It’s the same organisation, it’s the same tactics, it’s the same strategy that just comes up with a new campaign or a new summit or a new operation, whatever, but continues doing the same thing. 

On the potential for things to get worse for the ANC come 2024

My personal belief is yes. I think it’s almost like a domino effect. The more municipalities, the more provinces, the more areas fall away from the ANC and the rumours are dispelled about this mistrust with democracy, the quicker change happens and that’s why you’ve seen the rapid decline in the ANC. I believe there’s sort of a cyclical process. There’s a sort of a curve. Sorry. ANC voters vote ANC, then they get disillusioned. Then they change their vote. And we’re sort of in that period now where there’s a large disillusionment among ANC voters. And political parties are now competing for those voters. But I think more than – there is a large chunk of voters, citizens that we don’t speak to as political parties. We all compete with the same voters, and those are the ANC voters. But there’s a huge amount of South Africans largely unemployed, largely disenfranchised, who don’t have access to networks and opportunities and the sort of political gains or the access that comes with political gains that many of us have. And no one’s speaking to them, no one speaking to that, the largest group of people, in a meaningful way. So I think that’s where the opportunities lie in South African politics. And it’s not just competing for ANC votes. I think I answered that in a very political way. I think the ANC will continue to decline, obviously in pockets it might do better than others, but it will continue to decline on the national front, and the emergence of a new political system will come into South Africa as our democracy matures. 

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