Young South African voters hope for change

By Africanews.com

South Africa’s young voters said they hope for more jobs and a change in the distribution of resources, just one day after voting in the country’s national and provincial elections.

Many young South Africans complained about a lack of jobs, high crime rates, corruption and poor public services – issues the governing African National Congress has promised to address.

Young South Africans made up the majority of eligible voters who did not register to vote in the May 8 elections, raising concerns over apathy barely a generation after many of their parents won the right to vote for the first time.

Numbers released by the Electoral Commission of South Africa, indicated that nearly 27 million people registered to vote.

It however expressed concerns about 9.8 million eligible voters did not register.

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SOUTH AFRICA: SADC ELECTION OBSERVERS RAISE CONCERNS OVER LOW YOUTH TURNOUT AT VOTING STATIONS

By Ewn.co.za (Thando Kubheka)

Election observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have raised concerns over the poor youth turnout at polling stations as South Africa votes in its sixth democratic elections.

The officials representing countries including Angola, Mozambique, Botswana and Lesotho visited a voting station at Freeway Park Primary School in Boksburg on Wednesday.

African National Congress chairperson Gwede Mantashe cast his vote at the school on Wednesday afternoon.

The election observers visited a number of other voting stations to assess whether the country’s polls were free and fair.

Nyeleti Mondlane who was with the Mozambican delegation said they would have loved to see more young people come out to vote.

“And to have young people come out to vote signifies that they have adequate information and they understand the meaning of coming out to vote. If you have an opinion, you need to exercise [it and] vote and voice your opinion.”

Tebelelo Seretse from Botswana said she was impressed with how South Africa’s election was progressing.

“It was calm, it was organised, so we are impressed with that and people seem to know what they wanted to do.”

The SADC observers applauded the Electoral Commission of South Africa for the work it had done so far.

South Africa’s youth missing on election day

By Thesouthafrican.com

South Africa’s sixth general election took place on 8 May 2019. Notably absent from the voters is one population group heavily affected by the country’s most pressing issue: unemployment.

While the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) recorded a record number of voter registration for the 2019 elections, the statistics of registered voters have a notable absence.

People aged under 30 make up the smallest percentage of registered voters nationally. Considering this is the country’s largest population group, it’s a particularly alarming statistic.

The number of South Africans under 20 who have registered to participate in the general election has dropped to the lowest level since at least 1999, according to the IEC’s data. Registrations are at the lowest in at least a decade for those aged between 18-29.

The IEC only started keeping records by age after the country’s first democratic elections back in 1994.

It’s also surprising considering how, superficially anyway, the youth have appeared to be highly engaged in politics in the wake of the #FeesMustFall movement.

The leaders of the country’s two main opposition parties – Mmusi Maimane of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – are also relatively young. Both are 38 and some of the country’s biggest problems directly impact on the missing voters.

More than half of South Africans aged 15 to 24 seeking work are unemployed and the country remains one of the most unequal in the world.

South Africa’s registered voters by age group

Photo: TSA

Where is South Africa’s young voters?

Some believe it’s all down to apathy. Indeed, local media who interviewed young people electing not to vote often said that they feel like they are not able to affect change.

Others say that they just do not feel engaged enough by the current crop of political parties or that they simply did not have the time to register.

“There is an element of voter apathy and not political apathy – in universities, you see robust and noisy politics which is usually powerful enough to effect change,” said Mpumelelo Mkhabela, an independent political analyst told Bloomberg.

“The EFF has helped to energize young people. A lot of people on campuses vote for the EFF. The ANC Youth League has been disorganized.”

The election is the first measure of whether President Cyril Ramaphosa can reinvigorate support for a party whose backing rests largely on its liberation credentials, but now faces the prospect of a reduced majority.

South Africa’s election news with a unique WhatsApp channel

By Dw.com

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh is a social commentator, a rapper, a political analyst, an Oxford University Ph.D scholar and a new media innovator.

He’s also the founder of #SMWX – named after himself: Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh Xperience.

“And no, it’s not another WhatsApp group,” Sizwe says.

“We don’t add everyone in a conversation at once because if anyone has ever been in a WhatsApp group chat they know how irritating that can become.”

Instead people can contact the team directly and ask questions one-to-one, ensuring a more personal response. They can also watch the video content on YouTube and Twitter.

Sizwe seizes the opportunity in his intro video to play on the phrase: #OutWithTheOld and #InWithTheNew. The clever catch phrase doesn’t only apply to the changes youth want to see in the government which is being elected on May 8.

It also refers to how leaders could choose to engage with the youth, using new media to address a young audience.

The youth vote, Sizwe believes, is the vote of power – although many politicians have overlooked this market, disregarding millennials as apathetic.

Sizwe knows better.

Attracting millenials

The response to his platform, he says, “has been overwhelming, proving that the millennials are anything but apathetic.”

Reaching over 5,000 subscribers within the first two days of its launch on March 10, 2019, #SMWX now has over 11,000 followers. That’s a third of what prime time paid TV viewership attracts in South Africa.

As well as news updates and behind the scene footage of political events, subscribers can give feedback and also request Sizwe’s latest music video.

The rapper and scholar’s ambitious pursuits to combine his love for hip hop music and the fruits of his academic scholarship add a special edge and grit to his WhatsApp channel. In addition, his content promises to deliver all the comedy, tragedy, intrigue and drama of South Africa’s 2019 general elections.

On one episode of #SMWX, for example, Sizwe sits down with young political activist Naledi Chirwa in a colorful urban setting. She is a bold 25-year-old who speaks out against gender violence and how male dominance is causing black women to suffer unjustly. Her aim is to liberate the black woman from patriarchy.

In another, he talks to a local white actress who became controversial for attending an ANC rally and was afterwards called “the white cover girl for the ANC.”

Sizwe also puts together news broadcasts – such as a recent one focusing on shabby infrastructure brought to light when recent flooding further damaged roads and shacks in KwaZulu-Natal province. This has led to ongoing protests, with poor communities taking to the streets in their more affluent surroundings to highlight the inequalities in South African society.

How does a 30-year-old graduate fund such a big project?

Just how the #SMWX concept is pulled together is a question that seems to intrigue many of Sizwe’s Twitter followers – they bombard his feed with endless comments and questions like: ‘Who’s filming?’ ‘Is it just him?’ ‘But who’s doing the digital strategy? ‘This is exciting!’

Sizwe reveals that he does the channel in collaboration with a tech company called Thanga.

He was at school with Thanga’s CEO Roy Barole and the two friends have been chatting for years about doing something groundbreaking.

The May 8 elections provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.

In addition, the two have sought grant funding from the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) which accelerates digital media initiatives in SA, especially those run by independent broadcasters such as #SMWX.

How exactly does #SMWX work?

Thanga uses artificial intelligence, instant messaging and chatbots to run the channel – while still maintaining human interaction with subscribers. This kind of technology is, as one Twitter follower comments, “the next level,” especially for a developing nation like South Africa.

With Thanga covering the technical aspects, Sizwe handles the editorial side of things, which gives him the freedom to focus on topics that affect and interest young people – topics such as racism, unemployment, land reform and access to education.

He’s helped by a team of six creatives to do this.

What will happen to #SMWX after the election?

Sizwe says there are plans to continue after the election, to expand the channel “to different places on the continent and in different languages in South Africa.”

One issue is how to make money from the platform and keep it going in the future without diluting the integrity and values of his brand, Sizwe says.

Do we smell a conflict of interest?

After the many years of ANC corruption and nepotism, South Africans are sensitive to any hint of favoritism or conflict of interest. And Sizwe’s dad is Dali Mpofu, a lawyer who happens to be the chairman of the Economic Freedom Fighters – currently the third biggest party in South Africa.

Sizwe is keen to stress that he shares no political affiliation with his dad’s party or any other party for that matter. He says his channel is neutral and he assures followers that he doesn’t have any political agenda other than to be a voice to a younger generation.

But, he admits, his dad – and his mother for that matter – influenced him in that they made it clear politics was important.

“My parents were always political and I grew up in a political household and so politics has always been a part of my life,” explained Siswe, who back in 2014 shot to fame as a rapper when he penned a political song addressed to then South African president, Jacob Zuma.

Growing up in a different generation, he says the situation is different now to when his dad entered politics during apartheid. The youth of today just want to see the government deliver on its promises.

”My hope is that this platform will act as a catalyst for other young people to build a network or discussion and debate using new technology to contest the mainstream media landscape in South Africa,” he said.

Failure to Win Over Youth Voters Could Put South Africa Economy At Risk

By Dailymaverick.co.za (Sharon Wood)

Some 8m youth voters are either unregistered or registered, but unlikely to vote and 700,000 voters are undecided, given their economic concerns. Corruption and expectations that the economy will not improve post-election are keeping the youth on the fence, while undecided voters cite unemployment as their biggest concern.

Political parties and South Africa have a major challenge as voters gear themselves up to go — or not to go — to the polls on Wednesday 8 May. It’s the perception that none of the political parties is seen be able to solve the most pressing issue voters perceive to be facing the country: unemployment.

That’s according to the latest Citizen Surveys analysis, in April 2019. The South African Citizens Survey took stock of voter sentiment and views after registration closed in April. It’s also in contrast to what parties have been saying in the lead-up to the election. Citizen Surveys’ strategic research director, Reza Omar, says “the political parties’ electoral messages have not always aligned with their political party positioning”.

It is this failure to win the hearts and minds of some eight million youth voters that could put the country at grave risk and put paid to hopes that post-elections some form of Ramaphoria could return as President Cyril Ramaphosa hits the road to fix the economy.

Citizen Surveys delved into youth voter statistics for Business Maverick and found that some 6.1 million of 11.7 million youth voters in South Africa aged between 18 and 29 are not registered. That’s a huge increase of 1.6 million on the 4.5 million voters who were not expected to register, according to earlier surveys.

Add to that the 1.7 million (or 31%) youth voters registered, but unlikely to turn up at the polls, and there could well be a hefty proportion of young voters, the citizens of the future, opting out of the electoral system on Wednesday. That is significant in an election where, as Omar points out, “the choices made by those who have yet to make up their minds [have] the potential to have a large impact on the years to come”.

The underlying concerns of the registered and unmotivated youth voters, of which 63% are unemployed, give some insight into why they are so unimpressed with the political parties that they do not want to vote. The survey found 64% of them believe the economy will not improve over the next 12 months and 87% believe that corruption is increasing.

It’s not just the youth voters who could have a determining influence on the economic climate post elections.

“The key to the electoral outcomes lies in the decision taken by every undecided voter,” says Omar. “The 3% (just under 700,000 people) truly undecided voters remain key to these elections. They are weighing up and considering their options before casting their ballots on 8 May, rather than opting to withdraw completely. How they choose to vote can influence the outcome of this year’s elections.”

She says another factor that could influence who the “undecideds” opt to vote for would be how the parties have managed to position themselves in relation to solving some of the country’s biggest problems, often done through their manifestos and election campaign messaging.

“Often, those voters who make up their minds at the last minute, look to parties that they believe can help solve the issues that most directly impact upon their lives,” adds Omar.

As voters head for the polls, it doesn’t look at all promising. The SA Citizens Survey shows optimism about the future of the economy stands at a miserable 47% compared with 61% when Ramaphosa became president at the beginning of 2018. The overall trend over the past two years shows a decline in perceptions of the economy improving.

According to the 2019 first quarter (January to March) survey results, just more than one in five citizens (21%) felt the economy had improved over the past 12 months.

The most pressing problems cited by voters as requiring proactive attention, in order of importance, were unemployment, crime, poverty and destitution, corruption, delivery of basic services and education.

The survey found 27.5 million people, almost three-quarters of South Africans, felt unemployment remained stubbornly high and considered it to be the biggest problem facing the country. This was followed by crime (34%), poverty/destitution (25%) and corruption (23%). Omar says that the delivery of basic services (housing, water supply, roads, electricity) and education continue to be burning issues, “as is evident by the increasing footprint of service delivery protests around the country”.

This is not a pretty picture for a post-election South Africa. Luckily for the ANC, it is all the leading political parties, including the EFF and DA, which are perceived not to be taking unemployment seriously.

It will come down to the ruling party, and thus the government, putting its money where its mouth is to seriously tackle what voters consider to be the number one economic problem in South Africa. Otherwise, the economy stands to be mired in its sub-2% growth zone for many years to come.

By the time the next elections come around, millions more voters could opt out of the electoral system. DM

South Africa: Non-voting youth are not simply apathetic

By Mg.co.za (Gugu Resha)

It is just hours before the 2019 national elections in South Africa and the hashtag #IWantToVoteBut is trending nationally on Twitter. Just 25 years ago South Africa had its first democratic elections after the fall of the apartheid government. It was a historical moment as millions of South Africans, who were previously excluded from voting by the former government’s racist policies, were exercising their right to vote for the first time.

And yet today, years later, many young South Africans find themselves unwilling to celebrate and exercise this inalienable right for various reasons. The youth demographic has had a notoriously low voter registration and lower voter turnout than any other demographic in recent years.

As a first-time voter, and a young person, I am tempted to map out an elaborate taxonomy of youth voters and all their political, economic and social grievances in order to paint a thorough account of why young people don’t seem interested in politics and voting.

The common go-to is that young people are apathetic and, although this may be true on some counts, there’s as much complexity in youth voters’ views as in any other demographic. No group is a monolith and should not be treated as such — and this should apply to young people, too.

The youth demographic in South Africa includes people aged from 15 to 34, with the legal voting age at 18 years old. That is a broad demographic in itself and the multiplicity of priorities in it is equally broad. This means that treating young people like single-issue voters by latching onto a single youth-friendly policy issue such as “youth unemployment”, however valid and popular, simply isn’t going to cut it. The youth are interested in more than one issue — we are interested in political parties’ plans for making higher education more accessible, how they plan to improve service delivery, their strategy for land reform and how they’re going to bring down the cost of living because we’re paying taxes too.

Young people are also not immune to the general decline in positive perceptions about politics and the effectiveness of democratic electoral processes in delivering services and other political goods. This despondence is only entrenched further by the tokenistic engagement of young people during election periods rather than truly including us in other decision-making platforms.

One can’t ignore the glaring absence of civic education in school curricula. It’s no wonder many South Africans are unaware of other ways to hold the government accountable outside of elections. Our schools do not teach the youth about how laws can be challenged, how the legislatures are comprised, how ward councillors and committees are formed or how they can challenge Bills et cetera. Politicians see votes as the only worthwhile form of participation when it is clear that it takes much more to keep a democracy alive and kicking.

Of course, there is the issue of not relating to the political ideologies or leadership of the competing parties. But in order to move past this hurdle, we need to do better by young people. We need to treat young people like the intelligent, capable and important demographic that we are. Parties and government need to engage young people and welcome them in spaces — not as tokens or a challenge to overcome, but as an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and to tap into innovative approaches and new thinking.

Gugu Resha has a BA honours degree in philosophy from Stellenbosch University and works as a youth programmes and capacity building intern for the South African Institute of International Affairs