Parties set sights on the virgin vote
Less than half of those under 30 are registered
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.
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.