Soweto youth heed call to register to vote

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Soweto- As the Electoral Commission of South Africa opened its doors for the 2016 Local Government Elections voter registration, SAnews visited Soweto, Johannesburg where scores of people turned out to register.

While there was a general excitement from the youth, there were also mixed feelings about voting in general.  Representatives from different political parties could be seen walking the streets recruiting and encouraging people, especially the youth to register.

Student Siboniso Mthombeni (18) of Protea North who will be a first time voter this year was one of the early birds to register at Tetelo High school.

By 08:30, the centre had helped a handful of people who were first time voters while the majority were verifying their registration status.

An excited Mthombeni said registering and voting was important to him as it meant that he would be able to complain when services are not delivered.

“I thought the process was complex but to my surprised it was easy and it didn’t even take me 15 minutes.”

“If I do not register or vote -then I won’t have a say because voting is my voice,” he said noting that most of his friends have not showed any interest in the process despite trying to persuade them otherwise.

Mthombeni is hoping that after the elections, the winning political parties and their councillors "will pull up their socks" and deliver on their promises to the people on the ground.

Another youth, Tsakane Rikhotso (24) of Protea Glen was also excited about registering despite being unemployed since graduating in public administration two year ago.

“I feel privileged to be able to register and vote because I feel I have a say in what will be done in my country. I have got a chance to choose.”

Her friend Mphumi Zwane (22) was also optimistic about registering.

“I look forward to exercising my democratic right.  Registering and voting is a huge task and huge responsibility that I believe all South African should take part in especially the young people as we are the future of this country,” said the second-year civil engineering student.

South Africa currently has about 24.9 million people on the voters’ roll and approximately 9.1 million eligible voters are not registered – more than 80% of these below the age of 35.

The electoral commission has expressed concern over the number of unregistered eligible voters. According to statistics, Gauteng recorded the highest number of unregistered voters with 2.7 million, Kwa-Zulu Natal with 1.4 million, and Western Cape with 1.2 million.

In term of registered voters, Gauteng also recorded the highest number of registered voters standing at 5 937 471, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 5 056 518, and Eastern Cape with 3 161 535. -