Project Description

Tasneem Essop

Tasneem Essop Democracy Fellow OSF-SA 25 years in South AfricaSocial Protest and Youth in South Africa’s Democracy

Tasneem is a scholar and activist in Johannesburg. Tasneem is based at the Society, Work and Politics Institute as an assistant researcher. She is currently a PhD candidate in Political Studies and is a Transforming the Humanities through Interdisciplinary Studies Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand. She holds a Masters in Political Studies, during which her research focused on the South African political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, branch politics, and populism.

Tasneem’s current research includes work on community protests and popular politics. Tasneem is a political commentator and analyst on topics relating to contemporary South African politics. She has been involved in a number of movements as an activist.


Tasneem’s project seeks to contribute to an understanding of two issues in South Africa’s democracy: understanding the politics of protest (in particular, at the community and local government level) and popular politics in relation to electoral participation; and addressing the issue of youth participation in electoral processes.

In 2018, a number of community protests occurred across the country, targeting local, provincial and even national issues. These types of protest, that are most often concentrated around local government – with claims being made to other layers of government – have been a prevailing form of protest in the South African context.

Tasneem’s project will explore how protests, in particular the sessions of community protests, link to ideas of democratic participation, both within and beyond the question of elections, and how these impact on elections and voting. In addition, given that it is often posited that young people are at the core of these protests and popular movements, the project will explore the mechanisms for political participation for the youth, and how the idea of ‘the youth’ can be re-examined within South Africa’s democratic political system in ways that place emphasis on their political engagements, with different political goals and interests. It will explore questions of participation, the meanings of participation in a democracy, who participates, and through which mechanisms in a developing and contested democratic space. This project will enhance thinking about the different political subjectivities that are being forged within the realm of youth politics, given both popular moments as well as shifts in electoral politics.