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ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS

‘We want to make politics cool again’ — Ground Work targets young people in voter registration drive

‘We want to make politics cool again’ — Ground Work targets young people in voter registration drive
First-time voter Mpumi Sono shows the voucher she won after registering to vote for the first time at Ground Work Collective's x_change voter registration campaign at Maponya Mall in Soweto on 4 January 2024. (Photo: Lerato Mutsila)

Ground Work Collective put a new spin on the traditional voter registration weekend, blasting music and handing out prizes to lure young people to the polls during its voter registration and civic education campaign at Maponya Mall in Soweto.

While the Electoral Commission (IEC) and various political parties were hard at work during the final voter registration weekend, galvanising young South Africans to register to vote in the upcoming general elections, civil society also played its part. Setting up camp at Maponya Mall in the heart of Soweto, the civil society organisation Ground Work Collective (GWC) held a voter registration drive.

ground work voter registration

Ground Work Collective hosted a voter registration activation as part of its x_change voter registration and civic education campaign at Maponya Mall in Soweto on 4 January 2024 in a bid to get more young people registered to vote in the 2024 elections.
(Photo: Lerato Mutsila)

Boasting vibrant music, opportunities to win prizes and celebrity appearances in a bid to appeal to young would-be voters, the x_Change voter registration and civic education campaign aimed to shake up the traditional voter registration weekend held by the IEC. 

GWC CEO Mbali Ntuli said the unique approach to voter registration was the result of a year’s worth of research into why young people were not registering to vote.

In recent years, voter registration, especially among young people has dwindled. In the 2019 general election, of the 1.8 million 18- to 19-year-olds eligible to vote, 90% failed to register. According to the latest voter registration statistics from the IEC, 474,874  people in this age group have registered to vote. Similarly, in that election, only 54% of the 20-29 cohort were registered. 

ground work voter registration maponya mall

Ground Work Collective CEO Mbali Ntuli (left) poses with x_change celebrity ambassador Moshe Ndiki (middle) and Sazini Mojapelo at the collective’s voter registration activation at Maponya Mall in Soweto, 4 January 2024. (Photo: Lerato Mustila)

“We found out very clearly that it was not necessarily an apathetic choice but that the electoral system was not really interesting; it was very abstract, no one has really explained it, and they were put off by politicians fighting. We wanted to make democracy and politics look cool again,” Ntuli told Daily Maverick.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA youth not apathetic but no longer believe elections are best path to change 

“We have to hook [young people] somehow. They don’t want to come to a random table with people sitting outside. It’s not exciting to them.  

ground work voter

A young woman registers to vote at Ground Work Collective’s x_change voter registration campaign at Maponya Mall in Soweto. (Photo: Lerato Mutsila)

ground work voter

A man registers to vote at Ground Work Collective’s x_change voter registration campaign at Maponya Mall. (Photo: Lerato Mutsila)

“Once the whole registration process is appealing to them, then they’re open to listening to the rest of the stuff that we give them, which is the curriculum teaching them how the government should work and why it’s important to register to vote,” Ntuli said.

Celebrity influence to attract youth 

Media personality and x_Change ambassador Moshe Ndiki was among the celebrities at the Maponya Mall event.

“The more we [celebrities] speak about voting, the more our followers, fans and people who consume our content on a daily basis are exposed to the idea. I believe that we have a responsibility as celebrities to use this influence in a positive way … to impact the youth, especially about voting,” Ndiki told Daily Maverick.

Rivonia Circle CEO Tessa Dooms

Rivonia Circle CEO Tessa Dooms, sitting between singer and actress Nandi Madida (left) and media personality Moshe Ndiki (right) says during a panel discussion at Ground Work Collective X_Change Voter Registration Portal that it is important for young people to register to vote so as not to be left off the voters’ roll. (Photo: Lerato Mutsila)

He said he’d seen positive results from his engagement with young fans around the elections and the importance of voting.

“The lovely thing about the work that we are doing with the x_Change campaign is that it’s not boring, and it’s not just about telling young people to vote. We are making it fun and engaging. 

“A lot of young people don’t know what a municipal manager is or how to report potholes or corruption. It’s very important that these kinds of activations are done, especially in areas like Soweto, where there are so many youth who are facing problems like unemployment and where we can start conversations about how voting can change that reality,” Ndiki said.

ground work ntuli

Ground Work Collective founder and CEO Mbali Ntuli launched her organisation’s #X_Change Voter Registration Portal to attract young unregistered voters in Braamfontein on Thursday, 16 November 2023. (Photo: Lerato Mutsila)

X_Change Voter Registration Platform

The X_Change Voter Registration Platform doesn’t only incentivise unregistered voters with a chance to win meal vouchers, but acts as a civic education platform that empowers newly registered voters to be active and civically minded citizens. (Photo: Lerato Mutsila)

Young people want change

Mpuni Sono (22) said she had no intention of registering to vote when she visited the mall on Sunday.

“I changed my mind as soon as I got here. One of the ladies at the campaign came up to me and was really good at convincing me about why I must vote. So I decided to register,” Sono said.

Cawe, a 19-year-old Soweto resident, said GWC’s approach to voter registration spoke directly to young people.

“Usually, as the youth, we are not encouraged to go to the IEC because it caters more to grown-up people. The energy and the vibe here are more attractive to me,” Cawe said.

Both Sono and Cawe said they were eager to vote.

“We need change, especially for our youth. A lot of us need jobs, and our peers are turning to drugs because they are just sitting at home. So now it’s time for us to change,” Sono said

“I’m voting for change,” Cawe echoed. “No one is benefiting from the current government. People go to school to get their degrees, but they don’t get jobs. We pay taxes, but there are potholes everywhere, and we see no change.”

While the IEC’s official voter registration weekend has ended, GWC will continue to hold similar events throughout February at institutions of higher learning, shopping malls and community centres across Gauteng to reach more young people.

Online registration on the IEC’s website and the x_Change voter registration portal will remain open until President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaims and gazettes the official election date, which Ramaphosa said would be done “soon”. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jimpowell says:

    We, the voters, decide who gets employed as a politician by voting
    We, in paying tax (even if it is VAT), pay the salaries of the politicians
    That describes voters as the employers of the politicians
    DIRECT DEMOCRACY is a government system that ensures accountability to you, the voter!
    Never again vote for a politician that is not accountable to the voters
    The South African constitution and political system is considered one of the best in the world but worse than other constitutions in some of its content and application.
    – The system lacks in accountability of politicians to the voters.
    – The primary allegiance of proportional representation politicians is to their political party and not to the voters!
    – Many ward councillors see their political party as their first allegiance, not voters in the ward, the employers of the politicians.
    – The President is controlled by the ruling party. Should be directly elected by the voters
    Our system is effectively a 5-year dictatorship, along with many democracies throughout the world. South Africa is ranked 45 (blow)
    We, the voters, are
    – The legitimate shareholders of South Africa, our province and our local government and the employers of our politicians.
    As such, voters should have control over politicians and accountability of the politicians to voters.
    A direct democracy system is where laws are passed with the electorate in final control, if they decide to exercise that right through referendum, the voters will attain accountability of the politicians to the voters.
    You can make a difference:
    Present the document below to each candidate councilor and political party, negotiate the terms and insist they sign to show their commitment to direct democracy.
    I, (name of candidate councilor or political party), email____________________website_________________________telephone________________________
    Recognize that I am effectively an employee of the voters
    Recognize that the voters pay my salary through payment of taxes and rates,
    Recognize that the current system does not put the voters in control and therefore I:
    – Commit myself to regular and effective consultation with the voting public through public meetings and continuous communication via the press, radio stations or in person.
    – Will only vote in accordance to the best interest of the voters who elected me, who may be polled by means of a referendum similar in format to that used for petitions.
    – Will ensure that the wishes of my constituency are effectively communicated and advocated for, in and at all levels of government.
    – Will apply my total energy, ability and powers to uphold the laws and ensure that voters receive efficient and effective service deliveries.
    – Am, and will remain accountable for my performance to the voters only.
    – Fully agree that the registered voters of my ward may remove me from office (excluding proportional representation). A petition of 25% of the number of voters who voted in the last election within my ward is needed to effect my removal.
    – Accept that all registered voters are free to sign the recall petition, including those who did not vote in the last election. The recall petition may only be initiated after 6 months have elapsed since the last election.
    – Understand that, should an election be called, the recall process will be cancelled.
    – Will promote legislation at all levels of government and changes to the South African Constitution in order to realise a system of constituency with top up proportional representation, recall, referendum initiative and Direct Democracy.
    – Will declare any documents that I have signed with the political party and send the scanned documents to the email below
    – Should I no longer reside in the ward, I will resign
    – will send the scanned signed contract to the email [email protected] for display on the website http://www.directdemocracy.org.za for the voters to examine
    Signed (candidate or political party)
    How would you react if I applied to you for the following job?
    You will pay me R 45000 per month, plus benefits and the job is part time
    I am guaranteed employment for 5 years
    If you instruct me to do something, I can ignore you
    I can do exactly the opposite of what you instruct me to do
    If I do agree with you, I must get permission from my labour broker (political party) to do what you say
    Would you employ me?
    If all the contracts for the employees were similar, would your company survive?
    If you voted in the local government elections, you did employ someone under similar conditions
    Political parties should be funded from taxes. There should be no charge for registering a political party and individuals or parties contesting elections. Simply a minimum number of voters signing a support document
    One way to get the income of the masses up is to link the politicians’ salary to the average income of the lower 80% of the constituents and including the unemployed
    PLEASE ACT TODAY AND REAP THE REWARDS TOMORROW.
    “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they’ll never sit in.” Greek Proverb “
    A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” Edward R Murrow
    Jim Powell +27825712856 also Whatsapp
    Important links: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/the-strengths-of-a–weak–swiss-government/48483858?linkType=guid&utm_campaign=swi-rss&utm_source=gn&utm_medium=rss&utm_content=o
    http://www.swissinfo.ch/directdemocracy/how-to,
    http://www.swissworld.org/media/political_system/htdocs_en/index.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economist_Democracy_Index
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Referendums_by_country
    http://www.stopworldcontrol.com

    • Jan Vos says:

      “…Never again vote for a politician that is not accountable to the voters…”

      Brilliant!!! Bwahahahaha! Joke of the day!!!

      In other words: No one will ever vote again. (Have you ever seen a politician that is accountable to the uneducated voters, the so-called pee pool, of this sh!thole African country?)

      BTW, the pee pool deserve the government they vote for.

  • Greeff Kotzé says:

    This article: “In the 2019 general election […] only 54% of the 20-29 cohort were registered. ”
    IEC Press Release: “The age category 20-29 at 4.3 million now represents 48% measured against the voting age population. ”
    Sy Mamabolo: “There’s been an important reversal of the historic underrepresentation of young persons.”

    Kindly pardon my cognitive dissonance, but what reversal is that?

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