Voting is a fundamental act of civic participation, through which people contribute to democracy.
Political efficacy is the belief that voting matters and makes a difference and in turn, voter apathy is a decline in political efficacy, the lack of interest is very prominent now more than ever as there is a global decline in voting among millennials, this is because of their lack of interest in politics altogether.
According to STATS SA, people under the age of 29 years constitute almost 22% of the voting community, and research by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) shows that the youth feel isolated from formal politics, have little or no trust in politicians and have had negative experiences from the government.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) held a round table discussion with the youth enrolled at Esayidi TVET college in Kokstad, where they were supported by the SAPS, DCS, Love Life, GKM Local Economic Development and the Municipality's Youth Desk, Child Welfare as well Gender Equity and LGBTQ+ rights activist, the Department of Social Development, Creative Art Zone, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Department of Labour. The discussion was to not only educate the youth on why it is important to vote but try to understand why the young feel the way they do about voting, the challenges they face, and what they feel should change.
The Municipal Manager of the Greater Kokstad Municipality, Mr. Raymond Sipho Zwane addressed the students and said that the freedom, liberation, and other rights they enjoy in this country right now did not fall from the sky, people fought and died for the democratic state South Africans live in and that the students should not take that for granted. Zwane said that they cannot complain about job opportunities, potholes, and other problems in the town if they are not willing to vote and take the first step in trying to change the situation.
"For your sake and the sake of your future children, do not just think of voter registration as just a tool to gain access to a proof of residence document, but as taking the first step in participating in the democratic voting process so that when it is time for elections you can vote for the party or leader of your choice. Please vote responsibly," urged Mr. Zwane
Mr. Musa Khumalo from the IEC also addressed the students saying that there are many people who should register with the IEC so they can be on the voters' roll. He said that the amount of money a municipality is allocated is based on the number of registered persons in each ward and that the Municipal Demarcation Board also uses those numbers to redraw ward boundaries every five years. Wards can also be added, said Khumalo, or municipalities promoted to Metros based on registered voters.
"Please register to vote, as it is very important. Youth voting in numbers can sway an election. Change can only happen if the youth stop sitting back and start acting. Those who dread standing in long queues can register now online. There are no excuses," said Mr. Khumalo
In the computer-literate world of today, there is no reason not to vote just because one does not know enough about a political party. In fact, getting away from the daily political news can be harder than subscribing. People the world over live in an era where Twitter is the preferred means of communication for many political leaders. It has become as important as a party's website for disseminating information on related issues.
Today's online environment allows young voters to get a complete picture of candidates and their platforms in the various media platforms they are familiar with. Voting can steer political parties in the right direction, even better to the direction young people want. The involvement of youth in politics energizes the political landscape and propels the country in a new and fresh direction which in turn inspires and benefits the next generation.
Youth votes can have a huge impact. Increasing youth voter turnout is very important. Millennials need to keep up with the voting process and never let go. In this way, they will grow into well-informed and empowered citizens, and the voting culture should not die out. Instead, it should continue to grow and make South Africa a country that is purposeful.
By Kamvalethu Xhelithole