Despite representing over 50 percent of the country’s population, South Africans under 30 continue to have the lowest levels of voter registration.
The Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) made this revelation on Thursday as it launched an innovative communication and education campaign, tailor made to encourage South African youth to register and vote in the 2019 national and provincial elections.
Motivated by the fact that a mere 16% of South Africans between the ages 18 and 19 have registered to vote in the upcoming elections, and only 54% of South Africans between the ages of 20 and 29, the commission unveiled its youth targeted campaign.
Campaign targeting the youth
The campaign – which is embodied in two forms, an advertisement as well as a logo – 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.
It utilises the catch phrase “Xsê”, a play on the Afrikaans phrase “Ek sê” which means “I say”.
IEC officials: CEO Sy Mamabolo (left) and Glen Mashinini (chairperson)
“We zoned in on a phrase that is uniquely South African. It’s cool and can be used easily by anyone across the culture lines. It’s a call to action phrase, one that prompts you to take notice and take action,” explained Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo.
“Xsê is a multi-culturally understood colloquial South African term that can be used in many situations, especially when one wants to be heard. Elections allow for an individual’s voice to be heard, hence we made it for the individual to own. Moreover, it’s a clever play on the ‘X’ that voters put on the ballot paper and which has featured in previous election campaigns.
“We hope Xsê becomes part of the lexicon of South African youth during these elections.”
SA still enjoys large voter registration
Despite the low numbers of young people registering to vote, IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said in comparison to other countries, South Africa still enjoyed a large number of voter registration for a country that does not work on a compulsory voter registration policy.
“When you look at the 75% voter registration that we currently sit on, it’s almost comparable to countries that operate on a compulsory voter registration policy and fine citizens who do not partake in registration,” said Mashinini.
IEC ready to facilitate 2019 elections
The IEC chairperson and the chief executive revealed that the commission was indeed ready to facilitate this year’s elections, scheduled for May.
“The commission is proud to announce that the following Constitutional Court judgment which ordered the commission to ensure that all registered voters and candidates have verifiable residential addresses, we have managed to raise the number of the electorate whose addresses have been captured from a disappointing 34% to 83% of the total voters roll.”
“We are not at where we wish to be [100%] hence the reason why we approached the courts for more time to capture the outstanding addresses,” said Mashinini.
The IEC representatives also revealed that there has been an increase in the number of voting stations to accommodate those who live in transient communities such as informal settlements, in order to also afford them the similar opportunity to vote.
IEC officials L-R: Glen Mashinini (chairperson), Janet Love (commissioner), Mosotho Moepya (commissioner), Sy Mamabolo (CEO), and Nomsa Masuku (deputy chief executive officer). Picture: Palesa Dlamini
“There are currently 22 927 voter stations, 300 more than the number that was there during the 2016 municipal elections and 650 more than they were during the 2014 national and provincial elections,” said Mamabolo.
He added that the IEC has also decreased the number of temporary stations from 1495 to 1059 a decrease of 30% from the 2016 municipal elections.
According to the commission, there are so far 285 parties who have been registered with the IEC and a further 37 parties whose registrations was still being processed.
Mamabolo, however, indicated that South Africans should not as a result be expecting a ballot paper with over 300 parties as registering a political party did not directly result in such parties contesting elections.
“There are checks and balances in place to ensure that individuals do not merely register and contest elections,” said Mamabolo, who added that there is a R200 000 fee for parties who wish to contest in the national elections and a R45 000 fee for those looking to only participate in provincial elections.
Further highlighting its readiness, the IEC said it had launched its click, check, confirm campaign in 2017 which encouraged potential voters to utilise the IEC’s online “My IEC Portal” to register or confirm that their names are indeed on the voter’s roll.
The process includes logging onto the site – www.elections.org.za – and following the easy steps.
For those who cannot access the site, the IEC encouraged particularly young people, to use the last weekend of January as the final opportunity to register and ensure that their addresses are in order as this will be the final voter registration weekend.