Political parties’ inability to appeal to the youth may account for a sharp drop in registered young voters, with many in the group opting to make their voices heard through violent protests instead.
There has been a 47% drop in registered voters aged 18 and 19 since the 2014 elections.
The Parliamentary Monitoring Group said in a statement this happened despite the Electoral Commission of SA’s Xse campaign and marketing strategies by other entities like Activate! Change Drivers.
In 2014, the voters’ roll recorded 646 313 registered 18- and 19-year-old voters. The 2019 voters roll has 341 236.
Activate! Change Drivers said: “Without a vibrant voice of the people, especially young people who constitute over 60% of the African population, governments tend to shudder in development and become entangled in corrupt and unethical conduct, which further limits the pathways for development among young people.”
However, political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the youth was currently disenchanted and demoralised by the state of politics in the country.
He said: “I have not seen a political party that is distinct and vibrant to the youth while tackling historical issues. They are not exciting enough and the youth does not identify with their extreme ideas. The messages are stale and unattractive.”
But another analyst, Daniel Silke, said he was surprised by the drop and that it would have serious consequences if the youth excluded themselves from participating in the elections.
He said the drop was a result of a combination of issues, including the registration system being too bureaucratic.
He said: “They would be losing their fundamental democratic right to exercise their voice in their vote and exclude themselves from the country’s decision-making process.
“The consequence may be the rise in vigorous, violent protests because voting is the most peaceful way for people to participate.”
Analyst Andre Duvenage said this generation was not connected to the “struggle” and were in a world where cellphones were more important than politics.
He said: “The biggest tendency coming to light currently is political apathy and we can do more to communicate, inform, orientate and promote the importance of voting.”