The Presidential Years

The one [issue] had to do with lowering the voting age, first it was sixteen then down to fourteen. Maduna and I went to see him and I asked, ‘Why are you asking for this?’ ‘Look at our meetings’, he said, ‘Can you see how many of these young people are at the meetings and how many of these young people were ready to sacrifice their lives. You didn’t ask them their age, did you, when you wanted them to be in demonstrations, when you wanted them to be in the struggle?’ I said, ‘But Tata, we can’t do it because in the constitution you will have to change the voting age, and in terms of the constitution once you give them the right to vote they have all the rights of adults. You can’t say you only have the right to vote but not have other rights, whether it’s driver’s license or anything else.’ He said, ‘Oh,’ and I said, ‘That is where the problem lies.’ And other people also discussed with him. Again a very strongly held view by him. As the president he could have tried to use his position both as the president of the ANC as well as the president of the country, to drive it and his very considerable personality to persuade people to change their minds.

Essop Pahad