A group of Vision AfriKa grade 11s took the initiative last month and invited the Independent Electoral Commission to come and speak to local students in order to encourage them to vote.
The initial meeting of the Youth Outreach Programme took place at Stellenbosch Library and included not only Grade 11 learners from the Vision AfriKa Kayamandi programme, but students from all of the local schools in the area too.
The initiative was enthusiastically taken up by Zukani Metshane, who works for the IEC but also lives in the Kayamandi township. He was just as keen as the Vision AfriKa grade 11s to encourage young people to get involved in the voting process and become more involved in making decisions that affect their own day-to-day lives.
The current problem is that, although South Africa’s population of 53 million is a young one with 66% below the age of 35, less than a quarter of those aged 18 to 19 are registered to vote, according to the IEC.
This figure jumps to 55% among people aged 20 to 29, but is still well below the 77% – the equivalent of 24 million – of registered voters across the adult population as a whole.
But it came to light during the Youth Outreach Programme that a key reason why young people choose not to vote is that they do not believe politicians stick to their promises.
They also feel that their specific interests as a group are not represented and that government at the local level is not transparent. As a result, it is unclear to whom they should go if they have a problem and they feel fobbed off if they do actually find someone to help.
To try and tackle the situation, Metshane took time to explain the importance of each individual exercising their democratic right to vote in order to take part in the national decision-making process and also where best to go to obtain local government support.
The decision was also taken to create a regular Outreach Programme to which each school in the area will be invited to send two representatives. These representatives will work with a number of group coordinators in order to try and effect wider change in the local community.