Despite the fact that Julius Malema has been relieved of his position as president of the African National Congress’ Youth League (ANCYL), radical pronouncements and challenges to the senior leadership of the party from the league have not diminished. Developments elsewhere in the world would suggest that South Africa is not dealing with an isolated phenomenon.
The role played by alienated youth in the so-called Arab Spring, – which started with revolutionary protests in December 2010 in Tunisia, the shock waves of which are felt to this day across the Middle East – is well documented.
Youth militancy, however is not alien to developed Western societies. Last year youth riots in the United Kingdom shocked the world. And in May last year The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that “a youth-led rebellion is spreading across southern Europe as a new generation of protesters takes possession of squares and parks ...”
Arguing that the employment market collapse has hit young Europeans much harder than older generations, Böcking writes that “intergenerational equity” – measured among other things by levels of direct and hidden debts and pension entitlements – is particularly low in southern Europe.
One reason for this situation he says is unequal employment circumstances, with older Spaniards and Italians, for example, profiting from worker protection laws while almost half of young Italians and 60% of young Spaniards are on temporary employment contracts and can easily lose their jobs.
Similarly in South Africa the unemployment crisis of the youth is an important backdrop to militant pronouncements by young leaders such as Acting ANCYL president Ronald Lamola who recently said: "Leadership of the ANC might be afraid to say 'nationalisation' and 'expropriation of land without compensation', but the policy conference (held by the ANC in June) has clearly demonstrated the power and the mobility of the young lions".
The youth constitutes 63% of the working population in South Africa, yet they represent 72% of the unemployed.
Böcking concluded his piece for Der Spiegel with the opinion that: “Ultimately, young Europeans will have to assert their own interests. Maybe they should resurrect a slogan from the protest movement of the 1960s: Trust no-one over 30!"