South Africa’s young people have always been at the forefront of fighting injustice. 

Back in 1976, the youth of Soweto showed their bravery by standing up against the Bantu Education system, even in the face of violent repression from the apartheid government. And more recently, from 2015 to 2018, young South Africans led the charge in the #Fallist movements, pushing for major changes in universities. It’s clear that young people in South Africa have made major contributions to the country’s politics, but we still have a long way to go. Shockingly, not enough young people participate in important democratic processes like elections. This is seriously worrying and raises big questions about the future of our democracy.

As we scratch our heads trying to figure out why young people aren’t getting out to vote, they’re paving their way to create political change. Instead of relying on outdated methods, they’re creating creative and innovative ways to make their voices heard. Whether taking to the streets in protest, organizing community events, or using social media to speak their minds, young people are stepping up and engaging in politics like never before. These fresh approaches can shake up the political scene and give young people the tools they need to create the change they want to see for their communities.

Did you know that if every single young person eligible to vote in South Africa banded together and voted for the same political party, that party would win by a landslide? 

That’s a powerful statement, and it’s why we need to get the word out before the 2024 elections. Young people today are struggling with many socio-economic challenges, such as unemployment, mental health and climate change. Although these are global challenges, they can be mitigated by implementing innovative and inclusive solutions. Young people need to be part of those processes to ensure their lived experiences are part of the solution and decision-making processes. So how can you get involved and use your voice to shape a better future? Here’s a guideline on how to get started:

  • Register to vote: Visit the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) website to register online, or go to your nearest IEC office. Many universities and colleges also have voter registration drives on campus, so watch for those.
  • Join a youth organization: Look for local groups that align with your interests and passions. For example, if you’re interested in environmental activism, check out organizations like the Green Youth Network, Youth Lab, Youth Capital and the Kathrada Youth Activism Programme. 
  • Use social media to spread the word: Share information and resources on your social media platforms to raise awareness about important issues.
  • Attend community meetings, read the news, and talk to your neighbours to better understand the challenges facing your community. Consider taking online courses or attending workshops to learn more about specific topics.
  • Speak up: Attend town hall meetings and community forums to voice your opinions and concerns. You can also sign petitions or join peaceful protests to advocate for change.

The power of the youth vote

In Zambia, where over half of the population is under 25, youth voter turnout was reported to be as high as 80% during the country’s 2021 general election because young people used social media to mobilize for participation. On Election Day, young people woke up early, and stood in long queues for hours to make their vote count and their voices heard. It is our responsibility to take action, and with the potential to influence the election’s outcome, we must not take this opportunity for granted. 

See you at the polls!

Tell us: As a young person eligible to vote, what issues do you care about the most, and how do you plan to ensure your voice is heard and represented in the upcoming election?

If you enjoyed this article, read a story about The great vote hunt here.