Durban — Even before this weekend’s final IEC walk-in registration, the voters roll is already the biggest it has ever been with 27 million people signed up to vote.
Even better news, according to the IEC, is the number of young people registering to cast their votes.
In the rural community of KwaNyuswa in the Valley of 1 000 Hills, the Imbeleko Foundation, an organisation which aims to empower talented, hardworking, yet socially marginalised rural children who are vulnerable because of poverty and scarcity, offers valuable insights into how its beneficiaries and staff view political participation and the changes they hope to see.
Imbeleko Foundation head of development Samkele Xaba said most of their pupils and alumni “acknowledge the importance of voting”.
“The young foundation staff are also fired up about voting, and believe it’s a big deal and can really shake things up. They think voting is the key to fixing issues like power cuts and water shortages, which mess things up for education, and making life fairer for everyone. They want to use their vote to push for solutions that tackle problems now and build a better tomorrow,” he said.
However, he added, many “felt disillusioned by the lack of visible progress in addressing pressing community issues such as power outages, road conditions and the financial hurdles of accessing higher education. Some expressed a sense of resignation, intending to cast their ballots solely to mark their presence in the system”.
Xaba said the foundation stressed how vital it was to listen to young voices and get them involved in making decisions.
Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) provincial communications officer Thabani Ngwira said the KwaZulu-Natal IEC was ready to deliver the final registration weekend today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday).
“This weekend is the last walk-in registration; after that there will only be online registrations,” he said.
He said all 4 974 voting stations throughout the province would be open on both days, with 14 914 trained staff to assist potential voters to register, re-register or verify their registration status.
He said 27 million people had already registered and there had been a high volume of youth registering, which he credited to IEC visits during orientation week at tertiary institutions.
The commission encouraged South African citizens who are 16 years or older to register. They must have a valid, green bar-coded South African ID document, a smart ID card or a valid temporary ID certificate. Voting stations will be open from 8am to 5pm.
Online registration platforms remain available 24/7 for eligible voters to register, check and update their registration status. Visit the commission website www.elections.org.za or go to www.registertovote.elections. org.za
Lelethu Masangwana from the My Vote Counts commented on their submission on the Amendments in Electoral Matters Amendment Bill that was introduced to the National Assembly by Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on December 7.
The My Vote Counts submission said that although the Bill Amendments were legally required, and they satisfied the Electoral Act by bringing independent candidates into the electoral system, some proposed amendments were opportunistic and would have far-reaching consequences for laws such as the Political Party Funding Act.
“Our electoral work so far has been focused on the public participation in the process to amend our electoral system, as well as ensuring that the system itself is democratic and constitutional,” said Masangwana.
Nco Dube, a Durban-based political economist, businessman and social commentator who regularly contributes content to leading local and international radio stations, said it was encouraging to hear from the IEC that even before this voter registration weekend, the previous ones had ensured that the voters roll had the largest number of registered voters ever.
“This means people are taking a much keener interest in these elections and wanting to participate in the country’s democratic processes and future. The IEC should do more voter registration education to ensure that these new voters have a full understanding of the voting process and what to expect after voting.
“After 30 years of democracy it feels like the country is at a crossroads and I would encourage everyone who is eligible to participate in shaping the direction of the country,” Dube said.
Independent on Saturday