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What’s the point of voting when the government will shenan-again?

77% are young people under the age of 29 entering the voter’s roll for the first time, according to the IEC
Wed, Feb 28, 2024

Image: Unsplash/Siviwe Kapteyn

An election year brings along a variety show of theatrical performances, with others falling in the category of ‘shenan-once’ and others back with “shenan-again.’ Throughout the political mudslinging, kissing of babies, playing dice with majita at the corners and kissing grandmothers on the lips, the show ranges from cringe-worthy to downright infuriating. Social media has dubbed this year’s election as the new 1994.

However, an alarming apathetic sentiment exists of young people wondering what the point of participating in elections is because it appears to be an exercise in futility. Loadshedding, corruption, high levels of youth unemployment and looting of state funds are some of the symptoms identified of the prevailing indifference.

As reported by the IEC on 6 February, they noted that among the new registrations, 77% are young persons under the age of 29 entering the voter’s roll, marking their first-time participation. New registrations for young persons stand at 352 524.

Last year, it was recorded that 14 million young people who are eligible to vote are not registered. The reasons cited for this are that young people do not feel adequately represented or considered by leaders and thus refuse to participate as democratic citizens. Although this year sees an influx of new voters who can vote for the first time, it seems that our education system is failing to adequately equip young people about what the elections mean and the importance of citizen participation in a democracy.

Young people usually get their first real insight into how democracy works in Constitutional Law classes. But if you're not studying law or politics, finding easy-to-understand resources on how our Constitution affects choices and rights can be tough.

Misinformation, fear-mongering and unconstitutional conduct by some political parties are fuelling the fires of panic or reaffirming “what is the point?” As a Constitutional Law lecturer and a spectator, the model of political parties encouraging the youth to vote by partaking in TikTok challenges or eating kotas to canvass for votes is not inspiring Gen Z to run to the polls. You cannot run a government by creating the façade of “coolness” because everything gives this generation “the ick”.

Speaking to political analyst and academic Dr Sthembile Mbete on how to encourage voter registration, she shared the following:

“Voter turnout is important because SA is a proportional representation system and in a PR system, every vote counts. Every vote cast contributes to the calculation of seats in the legislature (where laws are made and the executive is held accountable). Just know that the mere act of voting influences the systems and the allocation of seats in parliament. Secondly, being part of the voter’s roll is important even if you do not know who to vote for because political parties use the voter’s role to determine which issues need to be prioritised. Issues of healthcare, unemployment, etc are influenced by the demographics in the voter’s role so if there is a shortage of youth registration, issues that affect the youth are thus not represented.”

In a nutshell, use your voice because it carries the possibility for change and creates the representation you desperately need to see. 

Elections will be held on 29 May 2024.