Campaign launches to register young voters

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Khayelitsha resident Karabo Monatisi has been encouraging young people to vote in the upcoming municipal election but some youth demand that President Jacob Zuma step down before they go to the polls.

“There are young people in Khayelitsha who want Zuma to fall,” says Monatisi.

The 32-year-old is a volunteer of the national Activate! Change Drivers campaign, run by the Cape Town-based non-profit DG Murray Trust.

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ELECTION CHAMPION: Unemployed Khayelitsha resident Karabo Monatisi is part of a volunteer programme that encourages young people to vote in the municipal election on August 3. With him is his seven-year-old niece Siziphiwe Monatisi. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

The non-profit has partnered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to reach out to potential young voters via its volunteers, known as Youth Activators, to encourage voter registration among young people, ahead of the August 3 municipal election.

Monatisi says some young people in Khayelitsha blamed Zuma for various issues of bad governance, resulting in a mistrust of the current leadership.

“The issue of Marikana where police shot at miners and nobody took responsibility for that makes them feel this,” says Monatisi.

“When young people were marching here (Khayelitsha) demanding for schools to be built, police also shot at students and the government didn’t say anything. Young people also want jobs.”

Monatisi and other Activate! volunteers across the country are marching on with their public campaign targeting young potential voters.

“We want to educate young people on their right to vote and why it is important. The Zuma Must Fall campaign comes up. Young people said they would not vote because they want Zuma to fall,” says Monatisi.

“We told them there are no hashtags or marches that will remove the president. The only thing that would remove the president is to vote.

“We all have a right to vote. And if we vote we can be more vocal about what is happening in Parliament. Every citizen has a responsibility to make sure we live in a better country for everyone.”

Monatisi believes that “elections can make a difference for young people in this country”.

Monatisi is unemployed, which he finds “difficult” and says he would like to see more jobs for young people.

He lives in a shack that he built in his grandmother’s backyard. His dreams of studying to become a lawyer did not materialise as he did not have the funds for tertiary education.

Monatisi turned to working with civil society organisations when he could not study after high school.

“I wanted to be a lawyer but finances didn’t allow that. So I tried being a human rights activist and that worked,” says Monatisi.

“I was doing voluntary work with the Treatment Action Campaign. We campaigned for ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) in South Africa.”

Since joining Activate!, which connects young people who want to find solutions targeting civil society challenges, Monatisi started a sanitary pad campaign to ensure that young girls in Khayelitsha are not inhibited when menstruating.

“The aim of the project is to bring back the dignity of young girls so that they should continue to go to school even if they are menstruating. All they needed were sanity pads,” says Monatisi.

Walking through Khayelitsha, Monatisi points out where his ward councillor lives. He got to know the councillor through the current campaign he works on.

“Most people don’t know their ward councillors, especially if they are not involved in politics. We want young people especially to know who the ward councillors are as we are going to vote for them,” says Monatisi.

“A ward councillor is responsible for issues happening in our areas. If there are issues happening in our community we cannot jump immediately to the council. We have to talk to the ward councilor.”

Youth Activators are recuited via the DG Murray Trust website. Volunteers running the campaign to stimulate youth voter registration are currently featured every week on the SABC1 youth programme Walala Wasala every Thursday at 9pm.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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