By Palesa Dlamini
South Africa’s youth heeded the call by the Independent Electoral Committee. More than 81% of the more than 700 000 new registrations this past weekend were by people under the age of 30.
An innovative communication and education campaign was launched by the commission in an effort to appeal to young people and encourage them to register and vote in the 2019 national and provincial election. According to the IEC, more than 500 000 young South Africans registered to vote for the first time during the final registration weekend on January 26 and 27.
The campaign uses the catch phrase “Xsê”, a play on the Afrikaans phrase “Ek sê”, which means “I say”, and features young South Africans from all walks of life detailing why they believe it is important for young people to vote in the upcoming elections.
Although this was the final registration drive to take place closest to where people live, the IEC said that its offices would still be open to take applications for anyone who missed the opportunity to vote over the weekend.
“We hope young voters will make use of the short window of opportunity to still register at local IEC offices. Once the elections are proclaimed – expected during February – the voters’ roll will close for these elections,” said the IEC.
“We will be undertaking registration drives at higher learning campuses in early February to boost registrations and will continue our communication and education efforts until the last possible moment.”
With more than 22 000 voter registration stations operational nationwide the IEC said that more than 2 million voters were assisted over the weekend. KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest number of new registrations.
“Over the past weekend KwaZulu-Natal registered a total of 246 847 new registrations, followed by Gauteng with 236 287 and the Eastern Cape with 130 959,” said the IEC.
“Based on the latest voting age population estimates from Statistics South Africa, the current voters’ roll reflects a total registration by 74.5% of the eligible population.”
Last week City Press reported that from the 10 million-plus South Africans who were eligible to vote but had not registered, about 6.5 million were between the ages of 18 and 30 years.
However, the IEC said that after the final registration weekend on January 26 and 27 these numbers had decreased from nine million and six million respectively.
“We are pleased with the overall registration level which remains high by international standards for countries with a voluntary registration system.”
Acting provincial electoral officer for Gauteng, Thabo Masemola, told City Press that although the province had recorded the second highest number of newly registered voters, after Kwazulu-Natal, young people had come out in their numbers.
“The campaign by the IEC resonated with the youth. In Gauteng alone, about 78% of first time registered people were between the ages of 16 and 29. This was an indication that the young people of South Africa were becoming more pro-active,” he said.
Democratic Alliance national spokesperson Solly Malatsi said that it was essential for the youth to exercise the power they had.
“The youth are very influential in changing the future of the country and as the DA we are aware of that. That is why we want to work hand-in-hand with the youth in order to remove barriers to employment and higher education opportunities,” he said.
EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi echoed these sentiments when he said that citizens who wanted change should take advantage of the opportunity to vote.
“We call on all young people in South Africa to come out in their numbers to vote for the EFF. Young people must take a decision that they will not leave it only to elderly and middle-aged citizens to determine political power and direction of society as it has been the case for the past 25 years,” he said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is yet to announce election dates, which are anticipated to take place in May.