South Africa: Make Your Mark, Register to Vote

South Africa's electoral commission has been encouraging people to registers as voters ahead of an election later in 2019.

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), in partnership with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), on Monday launched the voter registration and education campaign (VREC) in Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga.

The campaign is aimed at encouraging eligible young people between the ages of 18 to 35 to register to vote in the upcoming general elections.

The weekend of 26 and 27 January is the final voter registration weekend.

Speaking at the launch mostly attended by youth from Kwaggafontein and the surrounding areas, NYDA chairperson Sfiso Mtsweni said this year, the agency is committed to fighting youth unemployment.

"We are glad to report that we have successfully lobbied government to scrap experience as a requirement for all entry level vacancies, a demand justified by the high unemployment rate amongst graduates."

Mtsweni said they have declared 2019 the year of youth and great determination towards ensuring that the agenda of youth is realised.

"We are at the centre of ensuring that as many young people make it to the legislatures in the country. We need radical and militant young people to fill up the benches of Parliament."

He said the NYDA is going to roll-out the National Youth Service (NYS) programme to reach one million young people.

The NYDA and the IEC kicked off the voter registration campaign at a local school, Entokozweni High, where they encouraged eligible learners to apply for their IDs so they can register to vote.

"It is our belief that a clear partnership between our schools and the Department of Home Affairs will go a long way in ensuring that our learners get their smart card IDs timeously to register this weekend," Mtsweni said.

A team comprising NYDA and IEC officials also visited CN Mahlangu TVET College, where they encouraged young people to register to vote.

"As we head to the polls as young people, we are celebrating the right to vote as a significant tool to restore the values of a non-racial society," Mtsweni said.

A family representative of Solomon Mahlangu, Gideon Mahlangu, who said he was happy to see young people determined to protect the country's democracy.

"We urge all young people to register to vote. By not voting, you will be betraying our democracy. Freedom and democracy did not come cheap," he said.

IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini urged youth to realise the power they hold as a collective.

"Young people of South Africa are an increasingly powerful and crucial segment of our economy, culture, democracy and country. Until they register and vote, they are unable to exercise their right to participate in choosing the future of our country," said Mashinini.

The voter registration campaign will be rolled out across the nine provinces, gathering the highest number of volunteers to assist.

Sibonelelo Msiza, 18, who had applied for an ID, was one of the young people who came to register to vote. She told SAnews that she is looking forward to casting her vote.

"It will be my first time voting," she said with excitement.

David Sikhakhane, 18, told SAnews that he can't wait to cast his vote. "I want to be part of the young people who are building the future of this country. Our government needs young people to take over."

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