A non-profit organisation, Educo Africa, started a campaign to encourage young people to become active citizens, by making their mark in the local government elections, on Wednesday August 3.
Young people who are part of Educo Africa, set up a group, called Making Local Government Work (MLGW), which, came up with a campaign, Swing Your Vote, to encourage their peers to vote.
Campaign director Siphelele Chirwa said that this year alone, South Africa experienced a number of violent protests, and many times, young people would be involved in these protests.
“The number of youth participating or showing interest in the upcoming local election is on the decrease. To curb this, the campaign, which is designed by MLGW members, is aiming at creating a safe space for public dialogue and to engage on issues affecting them, and finding ways of engaging or communicating with local governance for the betterment of communities .
“The campaign looks at how young South Africans understand democracy, and while they participate in the democratic process, what are other ways they can occupy and be active in the decision-making spaces. As the Freedom Charter stipulates, ‘the people shall govern.’ The Swing Your Vote campaign gives youth voice a space and action to take back democracy, as protected by the Constitution,” Ms Chirwa said.
The MLGW members have been working in five communities in Cape Town, which include Langa, Kraaifontein, Khayelitsha, Delft and Hanover Park.
On Saturday July 23, the group were at Mount View High School in Hanover Park.
Said Ms Chirwa: “We have a one-month programme of events taking place in the communities, followed by workshops, and follow-up after the elections. At these events, we hold dialogues and encourage the youth to vote – and beyond that – to hold those they vote for accountable.”
Joleen Meyer, 19, from Hanover Park, said this would be her first opportunity to vote, and although she had not planned to vote, attending the workshop made her change her mind.
“The reason why many people do not vote, is because they cannot see the change in their communities. The politicians, on the other hand, keep on fighting, and it seems we cannot put our trust in them,” Joleen said.
Dean Scheepers, 22, wanted to know why there are so many political parties if they all have the same goals.
“How are we expected to trust politicians, when they themselves, don’t trust one another. I feel there is too much fighting among politicians and nothing’s happening in our communities.
“All of the politicians speak about Nelson Mandela, but it seems nobody is prepared to do the work like Mr Mandela did,” Dean said.
Anele Wondo said as a researcher, she had found that democracy was about voting, not houses or special grants.
“If we are not going to vote, it does not mean that corruption will be gone, or that new policies will not be adopted. We are the government. If you are not delivering, I need to hold you accountable. We should be active citizens. I am voting because I want to be part of the decision-making process. Not voting is not a solution. We must also ask ourselves, what legacy we want to leave for younger children.”