Ralph Mathekga

Convincing the youth to vote will be key for political parties in 2019

2018-03-12 10:24
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Political parties got off to a good start this weekend showing what they have to offer in return for a vote in the forthcoming 2019 elections.

The voter registration weekend went pretty well across the country, except in KwaZulu-Natal, where an election coordinator was shot in what is suspected to be yet another political killing.

In provinces like Limpopo and Gauteng, the election registration was all the buzz. I spent a weekend in Limpopo province where I had interesting conversations with concerned citizens about the 2019 elections. I had a good discussion with very smart old gogos in a village called Ga-Kobe, a few minutes' drive from Bochum.  

In one of the discussions I had with an old lady there, she complained about RDP houses that have been left incomplete and the perennial problem of access to clean water. The conversation turned to how villagers were forced to fetch water from the same well where cows, pigs and donkeys drink.

The problem of access to water is something I have written about before in this space. For some of the old ladies who have seen it all, from apartheid to a democratic South Africa, there is no point in voting because they feel the system is just not meant to come to their rescue.

I indicated that not voting is worse, because there will be a winner anyway and they will have to respect the results, even if they had not voted. So, if they vote they then stand a good chance to have their voice.

As I moved to another village and randomly enquired about their readiness to cast their votes in 2019, I was confronted with the reality that young people seem to be losing interest in participating in elections.

Most of the people who actually showed energy, including deliberately staying away from elections, were older women. I did not carry out a scientific survey, however there seems to be more interest in voting or deliberately staying away among older people than among youths.

This is a concern in the sense that if the youth is disenchanted with our politics, they will inherit a future they did not play a role in shaping.

Older people are also beginning to talk about the EFF. I was told by some church ladies in My Darling-village that the EFF coordinator there even cooked lunch because she was expecting many people to be part of the voter registration. I wonder if Julius Malema authorised the budget.

Again, I found young people way too silent about the voter registration weekend while the older generation is regaining their political mojo.

Perhaps the silence of young people in those villages that are known to produce an alcoholic beverage from the marula tree – and it is now the season for drinking the marula beverage – could be caused by their preoccupation by this. Young people were just drinking marula; taking a break from the depressing state of our politics.

Whoever scheduled the voter registration week should have known that in the sandy villages of Limpopo, young people will be drinking marula during the same time. So, political parties might just have to forget about the youth vote.

The ANC will have to work harder to convince young people to stand by the party, while the EFF seems to be courting gogos as the party might have already exhausted its youth vote.

Whichever party secures the young vote in 2019 will get a significant boost. My unsolicited advice to the president of South Africa, who hasn't yet announced the election date, is that it should not be scheduled in the same month as marula drinking season because that will be a disaster. That will annihilate the youth vote in some areas.

This means that elections cannot be held in February, March or April 2019. Elections will have to be held in the other half of the year. 

Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes

This article was amended after publication.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    anc  |  eff  |  limpopo  |  2019 election  |  voting  |  voter registration
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