Youth Month: Young people should vote and create their legacy

Voters casting their ballots during the local government elections in 2021. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA).

Voters casting their ballots during the local government elections in 2021. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency (ANA).

Published Jun 25, 2023


By Mawethu Mosery

Forty-seven years ago, the South African youth, determined to force political change and defeat apartheid, resorted to, among others, violence and the armed struggle. The decades-long struggle ended in victory for the masses fighting for freedom and democracy.

The youth of today, like those of every generation, have the responsibility to be agents of change to strengthen our electoral democracy. And the correct weapon to use is the power of the vote.

The right to vote is one of the biggest fruits of the liberation struggle and is the cornerstone of our Constitution. It is also the best vehicle to achieve change.

The year 2024 is an important one for all of us in South Africa. Our electoral democracy reaches an important milestone: It turns 30. This important anniversary takes place in a year in which South Africans will go to the polls to cast their votes in the national and provincial elections.

This is the right time for all of us, and our youth in particular, have to remind themselves of the true value of the right to vote - a right for which many South Africans paid the ultimate price for.

The right to vote is crucial in a democracy because it is the fundamental way for citizens to participate in the political process and have a say in who governs them and how they are governed.

In a democracy, the government is supposed to represent the people and act on their behalf.

When citizens are allowed to vote, they are able to express their preferences and opinions about how the government should function.

Furthermore, the right to vote ensures that every citizen has an equal say in the decision-making process. In a democracy, each individual’s vote is counted equally, regardless of their social status, economic position, or other factors. This ensures that every citizen has an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process and to influence the outcome of elections.

Without the right to vote, democracy becomes less representative and less accountable to the people it is supposed to serve. It is important to ensure that everyone has access to the ballot box, and that there are no barriers that prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote.

As South Africa grapples with many economic and political challenges, the power of the vote remains the best vehicle to build the South Africa of our dreams. And the youth have a special role to play.

The Electoral Commission’s special message to the South African youth is both bold and simple: It is crucial for the youth to register, participate in elections, and strengthen South Africa’s electoral democracy for the following reasons:

 Representation: The youth make up a significant portion of the population in South Africa. By registering and voting, young people ensure that their voices and perspectives are heard and represented in the political process. They can elect leaders who understand their concerns, prioritise their interests, and work towards policies that address their specific needs.

  Policy Influence: The decisions made by elected officials directly impact the lives of young people. By actively participating in elections, the youth can influence policy directions on issues such as education, employment, healthcare, climate change, and social justice. By voting, they have the opportunity to shape policies that will affect their future and contribute to the overall development of the country.

  Civic Engagement: Registering and participating in elections encourages civic engagement among the youth. It fosters a sense of responsibility, empowerment, and active citizenship. It helps young people understand the importance of their rights, freedoms, and responsibilities within a democratic society. By engaging in the electoral process, the youth can also become more informed about political issues and contribute to public discourse.

  Accountability: By voting, the youth in SA contribute to holding elected officials accountable for their actions and promises. When young people actively participate in elections, they send a strong message that they are invested in the democratic process and expect their representatives to deliver on their commitments. This can help promote transparency, integrity, and responsiveness among elected leaders.

  Building a Better Future: The youth are the future leaders of South Africa. By actively participating in elections, they can help shape the direction of the country and work towards a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous future. Through their engagement in the democratic process, young people can contribute fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and transformative change, ensuring that the needs and aspirations of their generation are represented and addressed.

  Overcoming Apathy: Encouraging youth participation in elections helps combat political apathy and disillusionment. By actively engaging in the electoral process, our youth can challenge the perception that their voices do not matter or that politics is irrelevant to their lives. By registering and voting, they can demonstrate that they care about the future of their country and are willing to take part in shaping it.

So, the active participation of the youth in elections strengthens South Africa's electoral democracy by ensuring representation, influencing policies, promoting civic engagement, holding leaders accountable, building a better future, and combating political apathy. Their involvement is vital for a vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable democratic society.

The Electoral Commission calls on today’s youth to start today and create their own legacy.

Just like Tsietsi Mashinini and the generation of 1976 did 47 years ago. And there is no better way to start than to register and vote in the national and provincial elections in 2024.

The commission has launched several campaigns aimed at assisting our youth to register and to vote in elections. The Tertiary Institutions Voter Education campaign is now in its third year. The School Democracy Programme, aimed at high school pupils, focuses on teaching youth who are soon to achieve voting age, about the importance of voting and being an active citizen. The Commission also has an ongoing Online Registration Campaign which places the registration process at the fingertips of our youth.

All these campaigns are part of the Commission’s Civic and Democracy Education programme, and which is aimed at encouraging young South Africans electorate to lay down the building blocks of their own political and country governance future.

The Electoral Commission is beyond pleased that over 560,000 South Africans heard our call to register online and we are confident that young South Africans at tertiary institutions will follow suit.

The online registration platform can also be used to update your details or address and we urge all South Africans to update their information on the easy to use tool as well.

South Africans aged 16 years and older, who have a South African identity document (ID), smart ID card, or valid temporary ID, are encouraged to use the Electoral Commission’s Voter Portal to register to vote for all future elections. Go to to register – it’s safe, quick and easy!

We also encourage you to get into a dialogue with us and tell us how we can make it even easier for you to register and vote. We are now available on WhatsApp and all you have to do is WhatsApp ‘Hi’ to 0600 88 0000 for quick and easy to engage resources on elections and participation Our officials are on-campus today. So please visit their activation stall for all your information needs and questions, as well as assistance with voter registration.

As we enter an exciting and new era in our electoral democracy, occasioned by the Electoral Amendment Act, which allows independent candidates to contest seats in the provincial and national elections, we extend this special plea to our youth: Use Youth Day 2023 to register to vote and take your future into your own hands.

*Mosery is the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer: Outreach at the Electoral Commission of South Africa

The views expressed in this article are not those of Independent Media