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Durban - Born-frees and other young people were not registering to vote because they were not politically conscious, the consequence of having little interest in reading, according to a political analyst.
Zakhele Ndlovu, of the UKZN’s political school, said reading was perceived to be “unfashionable” and he said many young people were either addicted to social media – spending too much time being unproductive – or were on drugs.
As a result, the youth did not understand the country’s political dynamics, did not believe their vote would make a difference, were uninterested in politics and did not believe that opposition parties were credible.
This was demonstrated in the lower registration turnout, for this year’s elections, by born-frees.
Just a little less than 500 000 of those born post-1994 have registered to vote, out of a possible 1.9 million.
The youth in their 20s fare a little better, with about 5.2 million registering from a possible 9.5 million.
“It’s quite disappointing that young people do not take an interest in the electoral process; it speaks to a lack of confidence in our politics and the system.
“One could even say there is a certain level of apathy, but I think political parties have generally not done a good job in getting the youth to join their parties, plus we know the majority of people who vote are not card-carrying members,” said Ndlovu.
But it’s not only apathy for the general elections that is widespread among the youth.
Interest in university politics is low, too, with a minority of students voting for student representative councils, and relatively few protesters in student strikes, the protesters demonstrating without the explicit backing of the majority of students.
“If we look at institutions of higher learning, a lot of students do not vote for the SRCs… Those who contest positions are seen to be motivated by greed and to gain access. They are not seen as people who are going there to address problems facing the students,” he said.
Ndlovu believed that many did not take politics seriously, and referred to the ANC’s January 8 statement rally last year, which he attended at the Kings Park Stadium.
“When President Jacob Zuma was reading his speech, I think 90 percent of the people there were not listening or paying attention. You got the sense that people were there for free T-shirts and to watch the kwaito stars,” said Ndlovu.
But the ANC was still a fashionable party to vote for, and he believed the DA’s bitter fallout and divorce from AgangSA’s Mamphela Ramphele would have left a lot of potential new voters confused and angry – leading to more apathy.
“The Mamphele move backfired for the DA; it has caused mistrust with the voters and maybe some who would have voted DA won’t vote now, because they would have looked at the (Mamphele) move as the DA playing games with them,” he said.
Ndlovu said it was alarming that the ANC would still most likely retain Gauteng, despite the hundreds of protests in the province in the past months.
“Because there is no credible opposition, the ANC will win, so abstaining from the ballot doesn’t really hurt the ANC,” he said.
A total of 25 million have registered to vote, and registration is still open until the president gazettes the May 7 election date. More than 520 000 people went to register this past weekend.