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South Africans sign up to vote for change on IEC’s voter registration weekend

South Africans sign up to vote for change on IEC’s voter registration weekend
A prospective first-time voter is attended to during the registration weekend at Clearview Academy voting station in Johannesburg on 18 November 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

South Africans have an appetite for change – this was a key theme for many citizens who turned up at the weekend to register to vote.

‘We need to vote for change, the country is ours. We need to be in charge of our own country and ensure that everything runs smoothly. The economy is not good, corruption is the order of the day. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice,” Lenny Magagula said, as he headed to a voting station in Thembisa, Ekurhuleni. 

On Saturday and Sunday, 18 and 19 November, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) hosted a voter registration weekend ahead of next year’s general election. StatsSA reported that 14 million South Africans had yet to register to vote. With only 26,468,106 South Africans currently on the voters’ roll, there has been a push from civil society, political parties and the IEC itself to register the 14 million unregistered citizens.

After the close of the first day of the voter registration weekend on Saturday, the IEC reported that more than a million registrations had been recorded at 23,296 voting stations. On Sunday, 609, 447 registrations had been recorded by 12.30pm. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Voter registration weekend — eight good reasons to register to vote

The 2024 elections have been touted as a significant election in South Africa’s young democracy. When Daily Maverick reporters visited several voting stations around the country, the sentiment on the ground was unanimous: citizens are ready for change.


On the other side of Johannesburg, people were slowly entering Melpark Primary in Melville by midday. Members of the Democratic Alliance (DA) stationed outside the voting station said they recorded only 10 people. But they were hopeful with the Electoral Commission saying it had the highest turnout on day one.

A father walked in with his two daughters, who are first-time voters. He said: “They have to be active citizens, and they wanted to be here, which I am happy about; so naturally, I came to help them register.”

Most voters observed on Sunday were present to check their details and if they were still registered.

Sandile Mathe (45), who came to check his details, has voted for as long as he has been of age. “I keep putting my X on the ballot because I want to believe that one day things will be better. I just think it’s important for me to play a part as long as I am a citizen and as long as I live,” Mathe said.

voter registration

Election posters ahead of voter registration weekend in Gauteng. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

The political party agents outside the station said they had observed a 60/40 balance of older people and youth. “I have seen mostly older people come through; we will see the official numbers, but I would say it’s 60% older people and 40% young adults.”

Talking about what she wants to see emerge from the 2024 elections, Midrand resident Phetho Mathabula said: “I think it would be best if we could have a new party ruling our country. See what they can bring for us younger people and [a party that understands] what the future holds for us. That would be the best.”

Mathabula added that citizens could only have a voice in what happened in the governance of South Africa if they registered to vote.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Civil Society gears up for SA’s 2023 elections: Vote, Participate, Activate 

In Thembisa, an area fraught with service delivery issues and crumbling coalitions, several would-be voters expressed their desire for a government that put the country first. Explaining why he decided to register, 24-year-old Thembisa resident Lesedi Mokobane said: “It’s time for change. Honestly, things are deteriorating, and it’s getting worse every year. It would be like a state where there is less corruption. It would be nice not to hear every two or three weeks that someone stole billions of rands.”

Lesedi added that it was important for young people to register because they would have to deal with the future.

“Most of the adults that we have now are still stuck on the idea that it’s ANC or nothing else. But if we just leave it up to them, we are just going to keep getting the same people over and over again, and nothing is ever going to change. So it’s up to us to be the difference, and we need to do something about it.”

Vusumuzi Latelisa is not as hopeful about the 2024 elections: “I didn’t register to vote because the ANC will win anyway. There are lots of old people, and I know they will vote for the ANC.”

The sentiment was echoed by Thembisa resident Sharlotte, who is in her late 30s and who said she had not registered to vote because it yielded little change. Sharlotte said: “It’s not the same anymore. When I first voted when I was 18, I stood in that queue, and I was in the hype of it. When years go by and you say voting is your voice, it means you make a change, but we still live in the same South Africa where black people are suffering.”

Western Cape 

 On Sunday morning, DA leader John Steenhuisen visited Jan van Riebeeck High School in Cape Town and spoke about the slow momentum of the registration weekend. “The registration weekend has been some kind of a mixed bag. I think we’ve seen ups and downs. There have been some really poor-performing areas. We would like to see many, many more people coming out to register, but there’s a lot of work still to do,” he said.

“I think that the other big change in this particular scenario is the fact that there’s been a lot more online registrations that are taking place. As political parties, we need to ensure that we continue to drive the message of how important registration is, particularly in a province like this in the Western Cape where we’re winning the war against crime, where we’re actually being able to deliver services and create jobs,” Steenhuisen said. 

Build One South Africa (Bosa) leader Mmusi Maimane, who accompanied a group of prospective first-time voters to Thandokhulu High School, in Mowbray, Cape Town, said: “I am encouraging young people, especially those without jobs, that now is the time to register and also ensure to vote. Many have worked for this democracy. It’s our chance to use it now.”

Presidential hopeful Maimane added: “We’re tired of load shedding, our young people not being educated, our streets not being safe. A ballot paper is our only way and option to surely change all of this.”

Registration started slowly in the six areas Daily Maverick visited on Saturday (Mitchells Plain, Langa, Bonteheuwel, Khayelitsha, Mowbray and Nomzamo). Party agents and IEC staff in these areas all said around 10 people an hour would come to either check their status or register. 

In Cape Town, first-time voter Tara Ross (19), who was at Thandokhulu High School, said she had made up her mind to vote for Bosa. “Many of us weren’t born under apartheid and my generation needs to understand that in order for us to make a difference, we need to vote and make a change,” she said. 

Ross added: “In order for us to change the current effects and influence of apartheid that is still present, voting is the only way. We have to understand now that many people fought and died marching for us to have this democracy. 

Kayla Hendricks from Mitchells Plain arrived still dressed in her pyjamas to register; next year’s elections will be the second time she casts a vote.

“My parents encouraged me to register even though I am not sure which party I am going to vote for,” she said. “The process was quick and easy. My hope for 2024 is free and fair elections with no violence. I want to see my vote working for me. I want to see a change in my community where there are drugs and crime. I hope politicians will prioritise us this time around.” 

In Khayelitsha, Mongezi Walu has been voting since the first democratic elections in 1994. He told Daily Maverick there was a time when he experienced change in the country but now, all he saw was a nation on its knees. “Something has to give,” he said, while holding his old green identity document.

“There was progress from 1994 up until the late 2000s. I am an ANC supporter and have always voted for them, but the state of this country makes me question my loyalty. Do I continue voting for the ANC when we have load shedding, crime and ministers that do not care about us? Those are the questions I have, but I also ask myself, which party is an alternative when the DA makes us live in a city that is still segregated and the EFF stands for chaos?”

In Bonteheuwel, Faghrieyyah Buchanan said the registration process was smooth. 

“There was no queue; it was in and out. I want to vote because I want to keep the DA in power in the province. It is the only party that has over the years proven that they have our best interests, and if they can govern the whole country, we would see genuine change.”  

She said many young people around her did not take voting seriously because of the high unemployment rate and crime. “It is difficult to encourage them to vote because they do not see the value. If politicians kept their promises, many people would go out and vote. My hope is that these elections will bring change, real change.

“I am hoping for a government that will create employment opportunities for everyone and reduce crime, especially in areas like the Cape Flats where we live in fear because gangs are controlling the areas. To politicians, sign a promise that says if you fail to deliver your promises you will step down. That way we will know that you are serious.” 


Sbusiso Mnisi from Msogwaba in Mpumalanga encouraged young people to vote, saying: “Do you know your responsibility as a young person living in South Africa? Do you understand the negative impact of young people not voting in South Africa? Have you registered to vote?” 

Mnisi has been encouraging youth to vote all year, sharing the registration link and using his social media platforms with thousands of followers to facilitate the conversation.

“If you are angry, good! I want you to take all this anger you have against all these corrupt leaders and how things are in South Africa as fuel to make a difference. Young people, together, we are powerful and enough to make a difference; let’s register to vote now,” Mnisi said.

Online registration portal challenges

Several people complained about difficulties using the online voter registration portal. Social media has been flooded with complaints from people claiming that they could not register because of a range of technical difficulties.

Gabrielle van Niekerk told Daily Maverick: “I started the process of registering, but I couldn’t finish it because I had to scan my ID. If I could just register without having to scan my ID online, I would; I’m still trying to figure out how.”

Others complained about not being able to get past the welcome page or being stuck on the prompt that asks residents to fill in their addresses.

The election date has not been confirmed, but is expected to take place between May and August 2024. DM

Daily Maverick reporters Lerato Mutsila, Naledi Sikhakhane, Takudzwa Pongweni, Velani Ludidi, Samane Jnr Marks and Suné Payne contributed to this report. 


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