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Does your vote really matter in South Africa?

By Siphesihle Sibaya

Image source: iStock

30 long years after democracy in South Africa, the power of voting vested to all citizens of the country is not utilised to its total capacity, especially the youth.  As per information provided by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), as of 30 December 2023, about 26,941,305 people are registered to vote in South Africa. This figure slowly changes daily as more people register to vote online. However, out of that number, the individuals aged 18-39 only occupy over 11 240 219 of those registered voters or 41.72% of voters. Younger individuals in South Africa make up a low percentage of registered voters. This means that citizens aged 40+ make up the majority of this number. 

For the past few years, we have bore witness to the collapse of the state of our economy and our country through multiple decades of inadequate leadership. We have seen our leaders fail us. Corruption, poor service delivery, lack of jobs, and empty promises have become the norm in South Africa. We have become desensitised to the scandals we constantly hear about in our country. The quality of life is rapidly decreasing, and it is becoming harder to ignore what is happening right in front of us. South Africa has been branded as the exemplar of democracy, following the struggle to obtain it during apartheid. However, years after this acclaimed victory, the voter turnout has decreased significantly. Young, eligible voting citizens need to recognise their detrimental role in the electoral process. We must remember the most important key in unlocking the door that will lead us to change: our power to vote. 

We have become a democratic state that lacks democracy as our people have neglected their right to exercise voting and take part in the decision-making of this country, which directly affects them. This is why it is now crucial more than ever to take back the power many before us fought hard to have. Young people need to take their place in the electoral process for change to happen.

So why is your vote crucial as a young person in South Africa? Does one vote truly make a difference? The short answer to that is yes, it absolutely matters, and it makes a significant difference. As much as every single citizen needs to vote, it is more crucial for the youth to participate in voting. This is because they will be affected more than the older age groups by decisions made about the country's future. This is why more emphasis is put on the youth to vote compared to other age groups.

In addition, you might be one of many people who think your single vote will not make a difference. Thousands of other voters also have the same opinion, which is a problematic stance when that one lost vote turns into tens of thousands of lost votes. Those thousands of votes make a huge difference in the results and have the potential to affect them.

In this digital age, the younger citizens of this country also have more access to information through the internet or platforms like social media, which the older generations did not have access to. This gives us the advantage of being more informed and making informed decisions, which is essential when voting about the country's future. It is vital to learn and research about the parties that will be on the ballot and find one that checks a good number of your boxes regarding your ethos and values as an individual. For some people, there will be a party that checks all; for others, it may only check few. However, not voting means that your vote goes to the ruling party, which, as we have seen, has not been the best option given our current standing. It is better to cast a vote than not to vote at all. At this particular moment, the objective should be to stand as a united front in discarding the leadership that has made our economy what it is today. Getting rid of the problem is the first step in the right direction. That starts by voting and showing up in numbers as the young people of South Africa.

It is vital for the future of South Africa to realise the importance of their role in using one of their most valuable rights, which is voting. The faster we come to this important realisation, the faster we can see better outcomes for the fate of our country. The 2024 elections are our chance to take back our power and create a more sustainable future where reform and equality can occur.

Your vote matters.

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