The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) used social media to target the youth vote far more effectively than other political parties, analysts say. Picture: Itumeleng English African News Agency(ANA)
The ANC has won the national general elections, but both the winning party and the opposition have lost thousands of voters to the EFF.

The third biggest party, the EFF has almost doubled its parliamentary seats largely thanks to the youth vote and the party’s election campaign strategy.

The other 47 parties may have erred by using “poster language” to target the youth vote and by not effectively using social media.

The 2015 #FeesMustFall student protests revealed that tens of thousands of young South Africans could be mobilised using social media, which marked a new way of mobilising student political power.

Social media played an important role in not only organising the protests, but also in allowing information around important issues to be shared between students and the public - they had the support of their parents and many South Africans.

Four years later, 6 million people below the age of 30 - some of whom would have been part of the student movement - did not vote, and political parties must take the blame for not building on the mobilisation campaigns of the FeesMustFall movement.

Images of Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu and Mmusi Maimane being asked to leave FeesMustFall protests showed that students were passionate about their protest and did not want politicians hijacking it.

Trend analyst and head of World Wide Worx Arthur Goldstuck said students had been able to mobilise for #FeesMustFall because it was a cause that spoke directly to them.

“Most of the parties did not specifically target youth in their campaigns. The EFF seems to have spent more money on campaigns than any other party. The ‘Son Of The Soil’ slogan was easily understandable and appealed more to the young black voters than the ANC’s slogan, ‘Building South Africa Together’,” Goldstuck said.

“The EFF leader has had an increase of 700 000 Twitter followers since his campaign started. Although Twitter followers don’t necessarily translate into votes, Malema dominated social media during his campaign.”

Toby Shapshak, editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff magazine, said there had been a lot of commentary about why the people who had been so involved in #FeesMustFall hadn’t translated into a vigorous voting bloc.

“I heard a lot of young people interviewed in the run-up to the poll saying they wouldn’t vote because none of the parties addressed their specific concerns directly,” he said.

Political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu said young voters must not only be targeted when they are at the voting age.

“Ordinarily what you need to do is to make sure that young people are taught about the political responsibility of voting from a young age so that when they are older social media message will be relevant to them,” he said.

“When youngsters have some form of political education then you can target them by marketing your party strategies. Essentially, political parties failed the young voter.

“A little research could have revealed that voting patterns have changed and thus the language needs to change. The EFF used more visuals than words and younger voters responded well. Cyril Ramaphosa won at the polls but Julias Malema won the youth vote and the media election.”

Political Bureau