One of the easiest ways young people can be involved in local government is by building relationships with their elected officials in areas where they live; run social media campaigns to initiate conversations on accountability and active citizenship. This is the backdrop of the Swing Your Vote campaign. An initiative started by a group of change drivers who include members of the ACTIVATE! Network
Swing Your Vote comes at a perfect time where youth from democratic processes abstinence is on the rise. According to Statistics South Africa, out of 24.9 million people on the voters’ roll and approximately 9.1 million eligible voters are not registered – more than 80% of these below the age of 35. Swing Your Vote, the one-year-old organisation, has received overwhelming support from seasoned political activists, experts and governance scholars.
In order to bring to speed with latest youth governance issues, Swing Your Vote members have attended a Public Governance course which was conducted by one of South Africa’s youth development organisations, Educo Africa.
The organisation hosts online discussions, dialogues and interactive workshops in public spaces such as schools, clinics, churches, trains and taverns. They also use informative posters, pamphlets and stickers at the same public spaces. The aim is not just to mobilise the masses but also educate the public about how local government works.
Members of Swing Your Vote believe that young people have a right to be actively involved in democratic processes and to voice out their concerns and opinions. Therefore in order to ensure that such happens, they have decided to drive meaningful change in local government across the Western Cape at grassroots level starting with the upcoming municipal elections.
According to the leaders of #SwingYourVote, funding and getting more young people interested in addressing social ills are some of the challenges that the youth organization is facing. Swing Your Vote Public Relations Manager Anele Wondo cleared some of the misconceptions about the organization. “We are a young public governance awareness organization, nothing more or less than that. We are not starting a political party nor are we affiliated to one”, she said.
One of South Africa’s revered political stalwarts, and former President Nelson Mandela’s and political adviser, Dr Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada is one of many prominent leaders who believe that initiatives such as #SwingYourVote have potential to drive positive active citizenry among young people.
While addressing activators in August last year, Dr Kathrada said “Young people are the majority in South Africa. It is very important that the youth is always involved in every decision making. Of course there are power hungry people who will try to make that difficult, but that does not mean young people must just assume spectator roles and watch adults take decisions that affect their lives. I wish all competent young people like you [Activators] can start now, roll up your sleeves and be prepared to serve this country.”
#SwingYourVote is supported by ACTIVATE!. The organization is currently operating in Cape Town. Some of the members: Siphelele Chirwa, Nicole Alexander, Zikhona Mgwali, Mcebisi Emmanuel Ntozinde , Anele Wondo, Mbulelo Ncevu, Shandre Samantha Slinger, Mkhuseli Madiba and Xolisa Right are Activators from Cape Town townships Langa, Kraaifontein, Delft, Khayelitsha and Hanover Park, but it is accessible to all young South Africans who want to participate.
Find them on Facebook: Swing Your Vote or Twitter: @educoafrica.