Where are you, ekse? IEC appeals to the young and the vote-less
Poor registration figures have scared the country's election body into a youth-focused awareness drive
Only 16% of SA’s newly eligible voters – aged 18 and 19 – are registered to cast their ballots in the national elections in May.
On top of this, only 54% of people aged between 20 and 29 are registered to vote.
This had led to growing concern from the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) that the country’s young people are underrepresented when determining which political party will govern at provincial and national levels.
The IEC has therefore centred its election campaign on the youth, launching its “Xse 2019” logo in Midrand on Thursday. “Xse,” derived from the colloquial term “ekse”, is said to have been developed in consultation with youngsters to grow awareness around the elections within that age bracket.
Independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the youth cannot be blamed for being disillusioned by SA’s current political landscape.
“Policies made today may only come to fruition 10 years down the line. It means the youth should understand that the decisions being made today will have direct implications on their lives and the type of society they will inhabit in the future. But I don’t entirely blame the youth for their low voter turnout,” Mathekga said.
Currently, there was no party that particularly targeted young people.
SA politics was “conservative by its nature, both in terms of ideas and on issues. No political party can claim to reach out to the youth in higher numbers. You cannot court the youth with strong ideologies as they tend to be more pragmatic. Until the messaging changes and the focus of the politics changes, this trend will continue.”
Speaking at the event, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said citizens younger than 30 were “underrepresented”. The IEC was also working to ensure a climate for political campaigning that is “free from fear”, and that the voters’ roll is credible.
“There remain a number of other critical success factors that the IEC is seized with. We need to ensure that there is a climate for political campaigning that is free from fear, that has no intimidation and is free from violence.
“If the voters’ roll is flawed then subsequent activities are already flawed. We are sitting at 83% where voters have come forward and given their addresses.”
This year’s ballot paper is expected to consist of more than 280 parties.
Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo announced that the IEC had received 47 political party applications since January, bringing the total for registered political parties to 285. The organisation was also processing a further 37 new applications.
Parties that do not accumulate enough votes to give them a seat in the National Assembly will forfeit their R200,000 deposit.
The final voter registration weekend is on January 26 and 27 and South Africans are expected to go to the polls in May.