Voting with their feet

2014-05-04 15:00

South Africa could be heading for its lowest voter turnout of the past 20 years with about 46% of eligible voters not turning up at the polls.

This figure is based on the more than 10?million eligible voters who have not registered, as well as the expectation’s of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that 70% of those who have registered will turn out to vote on Wednesday.

In 2009, 42% of eligible voters did not go to the polls.

With more than 25?million registered voters, the IEC is hoping that about 19?million will cast their votes.

There are about 10.2?million eligible voters who have not registered at all.

If they had voted, Market research company Ipsos says that 42% would have voted for the ANC, about 8% for the DA and about 4% for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Ironically, this makes unregistered voters the biggest swing group, says political analyst Zwelethu Jolobe from the University of Cape Town.

The largest group of unregistered voters are aged between 18 and 24 and constitute 38% of the total.

Ipsos’ director of public affairs, Mari Harris, said most unregistered voters they interviewed said they felt their votes would not make any difference to the outcome.

“To substantiate this?–?in our latest poll, 35% of South Africans eligible to vote said there was no political party they could identify with.

“I think this has largely to do with inadequate voter education?–?especially among young people,” Harris said.

In Motetema township near Groblersdal in Limpopo, Tumelo Tsokela (20) said although the ANC had done good things like providing social grants, electricity and no-fee schools, he had not seen enough change in his own backyard.

Tsokela said he was simply too disillusioned to register because not a single political party deserved his vote.

One of his neighbours, Thabo Matlaba (24), was simply “too busy” to register.

The Grade 11 dropout runs his own carwash and was so wrapped up in his work that he forgot to register.

If he had registered, Matlaba said, he would not have hesitated to vote for the ANC.

“The ANC has done a lot and it is my number one political party.”

He does not believe any other party would have given him the opportunity to run his own business.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said it was “regrettable” that so many citizens chose not to vote “because that reduces the power of any political party to implement their mandate”.

“The unregistered voters will not impact the numbers of the ANC much because they don’t really form part of those who have voted for the party before. We won’t be losing 42% of the unregistered votes because those votes weren’t ours in the first place,” Khoza said.

The EFF, meanwhile, said Ipsos’ numbers were wrong.

“The express majority of those who have turned out to register are the youth, between 18 and 34. Your numbers that say they won’t be voting are wrong.

“There are people from all ages at our meetings because we campaign to people of all ages and races,” said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

Ndlozi said the EFF was not worried about the country’s 10.5?million unregistered eligible voters affecting his party’s final numbers.

The DA’s Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said it was unfortunate that the highest percentage of eligible, unregistered voters were young.

“This is the group that could have swung the vote, but many of them have decided not to even [vote] though they should have been at the forefront of these elections,” he said.

“We have worked really hard to communicate the message to them, but there is nothing we can do right now. We have to focus our efforts on those who have registered,” added Maimane.

Unregistered Voters

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