ANC swaggers for youth vote

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The ANCs new swagger clothing line, designed to appeal to young voters, was unveiled last week.

Durban - On Friday thousands of ANC supporters – mainly young people – converged at the Ugu Sports and Leisure Club in Port Shepstone for an ANC event.

But this was no ordinary ANC rally, for it was where the party would introduce its clothing line.

Dubbed “My ANC, My Swagg”, the clothing label is part of a campaign of the same name. To the uninitiated and the not so young, swagg is slang for cool and stylish.

The campaign is the brainchild of 28-year-old Nqobile Cele who has made it her mission to ensure that the ANC gains popular support among the youth, especially those voting for the first time.

Last year’s Pondering Panda survey of some 3 585 18- to 34-year-olds, showed that only 35 percent in this age group intended to vote for the ANC. This would no doubt concern the ruling party, which is hoping to improve on the share of the vote it got in 2009.

Cele and her business partners are hoping to be the answer to this.

“This campaign is not only about clothes and music, but we also conduct political lessons. So the money we get goes back to buying garments but also to these political classes that we run,” she says.

Cele – who described herself as a “fashionista” since an early age – said she started printing the My Swagg T-shirts in April last year with the help of graphics designer friend Mxolisi Phehlukwayo.

“I just wanted to pass on the message that the ANC is stylish, it’s cool to be ANC.”

Cele, who sports an ANC jacket with the words “Chief Swagger” printed on the back, says working on youth development programmes is second nature to her as her day job is that of youth development practitioner at the Hibiscus Coast municipality.

She has enlisted the services of 10 young designers, many of whom are hoping that being part of the My ANC, My Swagg campaign will open doors.

“I am hoping that I will get exposure through this label. I would be willing to sell the garments should I find a buyer but the price would depend on who I am selling it to,” says 24-year-old Zanndile Mbambo, who produced six of the pieces showcased last Friday.

An excited Senzo Mchunu, the KZN chairman of the ANC, said the party would be taking the My Swagg campaign to all parts of the province.

Young people in the ANC – starting with the generation of Mandela in 1944 – have always brought new vigour and new ideas to the party, he said.

“They (the founders of the ANC Youth League) also brought self-assertion, independence and pride to the ANC. They said ‘we are here now as this generation and we are going to take the ANC forward’.”

Mchunu said the ANC was inspired by the “swaggers”, adding that the 102-year-old party was not an organisation exclusively for old people.

Born Frees, also nicknamed Mandela’s children – that generation born into a democratic South Africa – would be voting for the first time at this year’s general elections and political parties are re-inventing themselves to appeal to this section of the population.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) figures show that the registration levels of those in the 20 to 29 age group are the lowest compared to any other age group. They stand at 54.5 percent (5.1 million) while for voters aged between 18 and 19 it is even lower, at just 22.6 percent (428 889).

KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape – at 27 percent – have the highest percentage of registered voters in the 18 to 19 age group. But these provinces are among those with the lowest registration levels among the 20- to 29-year-olds.

This presents a conundrum for many parties, most especially the ANC, which goes into the election with a highly dysfunctional Youth League – the tool it uses to mobilise young people behind its cause.

The league has been left in limbo with many structures disbanded and task teams having been put in place.

Even the eThekwini region of the league – one of the largest regions in the country – only held its regional conference this year amid protest from some disgruntled members.

My ANC, My Swag campaigners hope their fashion statement will reverse this.

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