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latest news > news in brief > 2009 Elections in South Africa: The People Have Spoken

Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT)

2009 Elections in South Africa: The People Have Spoken

4 May 2009

South Africans withstood low temperatures in some parts of the country to join queues to cast their votes in South Africa’s fourth democratic elections on 22 April 2009. For many, the long queues at many of the approximately 19 000 polling stations brought back memories of 1994 when they participated in the country’s first democratic elections.

Unlike the 1999 and 2004 elections which were characterised by voter apathy, 2009 will be remembered for the interest and participation of young South Africans in both rural and urban areas.

Their participation in this year’s elections reflects the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) report which showed the voter’s roll grew from 20.6 million in the 2004 to just over 23 million voters in 2009 – exceeding the target of 22 million which the IEC had set itself for the 2009 elections. Of the 1 505 642 new registrations, 78 percent were from people under the age of 30, according to IEC chairperson, Brigalia Bam.

While I have not come across any research that explains the greater interest of young people in this years’ elections, I used the opportunity of standing in the voting queue last week to talk to a few of them.

According to a group of six young men and women at the polling station where I voted, their concerns over the state of education, poverty and other social problems were what drove them to vote - so that they could “elect their preferred government”. They say they want a government that will work to make sure that education is accessible and affordable, especially to the historically-disadvantaged. One of them said she wants a government which is led by competent people at the national, provincial and local spheres. Interestingly, another young voter said she “will only decide who to vote for” when she had the ballot paper in her hand.

I also listened to two men in their 40s talking about the importance of voting. They were not impressed with political leaders who come to their communities only during elections time. They argued that service delivery protests are a reflection of leaders’ failure to consult with their electorate. Read more

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