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ROCKING THE POLLS

Top music acts hit right note with young KZN voters as reward for registering for 2024 elections

Top music acts hit right note with young KZN voters as reward for registering for 2024 elections
From left: MC, actress and TV and radio host Nomalanga Shozi, #X_Change ambassador, producer and DJ Junior De Rocka, and Ground Work Collective founder and CEO Mbali Ntuli at the #X_Change Concert Xperience. (Photo: Ground Work Collective)

More than 6,000 young people from KwaZulu-Natal have registered to vote in an education campaign that is about to go nationwide.

When crowds of young South Africans descended on the Werehouse events venue in South Beach, Durban, over the weekend to catch some of the biggest acts in local music, it marked an important step on their journey towards active citizenry.

For registering to vote in the 2024 national and provincial elections their reward was a night with acts including Afro-pop singers Ami Faku and Sha Sha, and DJs Wobbly and Que. Black Entertainment Network TV and radio personality Nomalanga Shozi was the host.

The #X_Change Concert Xperience was the first phase in a month-long voter education campaign targeting youngsters and run by the Ground Work Collective in partnership with CitizensZA, the Electoral Commission of South Africa, Impala Platinum, Sibanye Stillwater and Futurelect.

The collective –  a community development initiative focusing on food security, access to water, civic education and social entrepreneurship – visited 20 areas in KwaZulu-Natal that had low voter turnout in the last by-elections and national polls, and managed to get more than 6,000 young people to register.

The X_Change campaign is designed to engage young people directly through a series of in-person and digital activations rooted in an incentive- and education-based programme of action.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ask Us Anything: What by-election results signal for 2024

Ground Work Collective founder and CEO Mbali Ntuli said the campaign has shown her that young people are not apathetic but need easy access to information and registration. 

“We are trying to reach young people where they are using the things that excite them. One of the things we said was they will get a chance to win mega-concert tickets, and now we are here. This is significant because political parties don’t seem to be reaching the youth, the voter turnout numbers are very low. Young people are opting out of the democratic processes,” said Ntuli.

young KZN voters

Musician Ami Faku entertains ticket winners at the free #X_Change Concert Xperience. (Photo: Ground Work Collective)

young KZN voters

Ground Work Collective founder and CEO Mbali Ntuli (right) on stage at the #X_Change Concert Xperience with actress and TV and radio host Nomalanga Shozi, who was MC at the event. (Photo: Ground Work Collective)

The second phase of the campaign would involve education about participation in local democratic processes.

“We had a successful registration campaign but now we will be expanding. We’re looking at different things that can excite and engage young people. Now we will have board games, animations, videos on normal things like what is a ward councillor, why you should vote, regular things you would assume people know but they don’t because nobody engages them on it.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Voter apathy — especially among the young — threatens democracy in Africa

Ntuli is a former DA KwaZulu-Natal MPL, a political leader, public speaker and activist, and was the youngest person to contest for the leadership of South Africa’s official opposition party in 2020.

She said young people are organising outside of the democratic political processes, and cited groups such as the National Youth Coalition which gathered thousands of young people to hand over a memorandum at the Union Buildings in June. “This is wonderful but you need to participate in the system to get your voice heard. We plan on campaigning until the elections and beyond.” 

‘Made sense’

Themba Molefe (19), who was among the ticket winners, said that what the campaign volunteers were saying “just made sense”.

“I do want to have a voice, I do care. It’s just hard because I can’t say I have a party that speaks to me right now. But I understand that not saying anything is also a vote,” he said. 

young KZN voters

There has been a steady decline in voter turnout since the 1994 national elections and the trend continued at the 2021 local elections. The 1994 polls recorded a turnout of 86,87%, compared with 66,1% at the last national and provincial elections in 2019.

Ntuli said they now “look forward to kicking off activations across the country, registering more young people in person and online, empowering them with civic education, giving them a chance to win spot prizes and a chance to have their very own #X_Change Concert Xperience in their communities. Reaching and registering as many young South Africans ahead of the 2024 general elections and beyond is our ultimate goal as Ground Work Collective.” DM

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