Born Free: An Assessment of Political Identity Formation and Party Support of South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation

  • Joleen Steyn Kotze
  • Gary Prevost


South Africa’s first post-apartheid generation was eligible to vote for the first time in the 2014 general elections. Born in 1994, this generation never lived under an institutionalised system of apartheid, yet they continue to grapple with the legacies of the apartheid system in contemporary South Africa. This paper presents findings on the construction of political party support among university students. The conventional wisdom perpetuated within democratisation scholarship is the necessity of a strong middle class for democratic durability; consequently, this study evaluates the foundations of the political support of students as the aspiring and potential future middle class in South Africa. This survey measured the foundations of political party support and political choice at three different universities in the Eastern Cape: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Rhodes University and the University of Fort Hare. The Eastern Cape is often considered the birthplace of the ruling African National Congress (ANC); as such, the findings prove to be significant in that the overall finding was that support for the ANC is declining in its heartland. Should universities be successful in facilitating the upward social mobility of students to an educated middle class, this could in future result in the erosion of one-party dominance in South Africa. The findings suggest that, as with many one-party-dominant systems, a lack of political efficacy and a declining ability to deliver political, social and economic goods to citizens lead to a decline in political support for ‘liberator political parties’, and as such, the ANC’s dominant position in the political system may in future become fragile.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-641X
print ISSN: 0256-2804