Par­ties set sights on the vir­gin vote

Less than half of those un­der 30 are reg­is­tered

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG DODDS

YOUNG peo­ple may feel left out of the po­lit­i­cal equa­tion most of the time, but that’s about to change.

As the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion’s (IEC) voter reg­is­tra­tion drive kicks off to­day, vot­ing vir­gins will be courted shame­lessly by po­lit­i­cal suit­ors of ev­ery ide­o­log­i­cal stripe, hop­ing to win the favour of their first cross on the bal­lot.

The youth are, how­ever, play­ing hard to get.

IEC fig­ures show that while peo­ple younger than 35 ac­count for 65.7 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, mak­ing them the de­mo­graphic heavy­weights in next year’s elec­tions, less than half of un­der-30s are reg­is­tered to vote.

Among the elec­toral debu­tantes – the 18- to 19-year-olds – a pal­try 8.7 per­cent were reg­is­tered by the end of last month.

Lit­tle wonder, then, that ev­ery­one from the IEC it­self to new kids on the block, the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF), with the griz­zled ANC and DA in be­tween, are fall­ing over each other to herd these elu­sive first-timers to reg­is­tra­tion sta­tions this week­end.

The ANC is in the awk­ward po­si­tion of try­ing to court the youth while its tra­di­tional go­b­e­tween, the youth league, is ham­strung by a pro­vi­sional liq­ui­da­tion or­der granted in the Jo­han­nes­burg High Court last week – a de­ci­sion the task team run­ning the league said was flawed.

“This elec­tion is about young peo­ple, their hopes and as­pi­ra­tions, and it is for their fu­ture that they must go out in their num­bers to reg­is­ter to vote,” the ANC said.

The party pledged to have at least 10 vol­un­teers at ev­ery vot­ing sta­tion, say­ing its lead­er­ship would also be work­ing with branches to get peo­ple to reg­is­ter.

The EFF were full of fight­ing talk.

“We will be in all vot­ing sta­tions in the coun­try. You must choose a vot­ing sta­tion of your choice, EFF will be there,” said spokesman Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi.

He was cagey about the ac­tual plan, how­ever: “If I tell you our strat­egy, when do you think the en­emy will know? Maybe you are from the en­emy,” Nd­lozi said, re­main­ing un­moved by protes­ta­tions of in­no­cence.

“It’s not up for pub­lic dis­cus­sion,” he in­sisted. Nev­er­the­less, he is­sued a state­ment later say­ing the “com­man­der in chief ”, Julius Malema, would be cer­ti­fy­ing he was reg­is­tered in his home town of Seshego in Lim­popo.

The DA’s Mmusi Maimane was more forth­com­ing about his party’s plans to woo unini­ti­ated vot­ers.

“We’ve just launched a My First Time video that tar­gets 18 to 19-year-olds. We feel that’s an im­por­tant cam­paign be­cause 95 per­cent of them are not reg­is­tered to vote, so we have to get them out there,” he said.

The party was also driv­ing a strong so­cial me­dia cam­paign, and had re­leased Reg­is­ter to Win and Reg­is­ter to Vote videos.

“We also, in all polling sta­tions, have ac­tivists who will come out and at­tract vot­ers on the day,” Maimane said.

The party would of­fer trans- port to help peo­ple get to reg­is­tra­tion cen­tres.

“But it doesn’t cul­mi­nate this week­end. We’ve been run­ning a very strong reg­is­tra­tion cam­paign all the way through. In fact, we’ve had ac­tivists go­ing door- to- door to check whether peo­ple are reg­is­tered. We’ve mar­keted the IEC’s web­site.

“So it’s re­ally been an on­the- ground, foot­sol­dier cam­paign that gets peo­ple out.”

IFP MP Al­bert Mncwango said his party had a spe­cial fo­cus on its tra­di­tional strong­hold of KwaZulu-Na­tal, where its struc­tures were or­gan­is­ing door-to-door vis­its and walk­a­bouts.

“We’ve pre­pared fly­ers en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar, to go and reg­is­ter,” Mncwango said.

“So our cam­paign is youth­cen­tred, and we have our Youth Bri­gade tak­ing a lead­ing role be­cause we’re try­ing to ad­dress the is­sue of these young peo­ple who have not reg­is­tered.”

While reg­is­tra­tion was an IEC re­spon­si­bil­ity, “as po­lit­i­cal par­ties we have vested po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests”, he said.

AgangSA spokesman Thabo Leshilo said the party had mo­bilised its more than 100 000 reg­is­tered mem­bers and vol­un­teers to be “out on the ground, spread­ing the mes­sage”.

“The youth of 2013 are, like their peers in 1976, be­ing called upon to change the course of his­tory,” he said.

They were “the true heirs of free­dom”, but had seen how the ideals of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle had been be­trayed.

“For­tu­nately, un­like the youth of 1976, they don’t have to die try­ing to bring about change.

“All they have to do is reg­is­ter to vote and ac­tu­ally vote a new govern­ment – led by AgangSA – into power.”

The party would use all avail­able me­dia – na­tional and com­mu­nity print, ra­dio and so­cial me­dia – to reach out to po­ten­tial vot­ers.

craig.dodds@inl.co.za

PIC­TURE: HENK KRUGER

X MARKS THE SPOT: IEC chair­woman Pansy Tlakula launches next year’s elec­tion cam­paign at the Bel­lville Civic Cen­tre. The West­ern Cape IEC ini­ti­ated a drive this week­end to draw young peo­ple to reg­is­ter to vote.

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