On Saturday, 5 March and Sunday, 6 March, South Africans will once again be granted an opportunity to reshape the socio-economic and political future of the country by registering to vote at the fifth Municipal Elections. The 2016 South African Municipal Elections will be held between 18 May and 16 August for all districts and local municipalities in every province.

An alarming statistic is that out of the approximately 9.1 million eligible voters who are not currently registered, more than 80% of them are youth. As an effort to change that, the Independent Electoral Commission has launched a widespread communications and education campaign to encourage first-time voters to register and participate.

Some members of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers network, with a mission to make the South African democracy work, shared their views about the 2016 municipal registration and elections. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is a network of more than 1600 young change makers or “Activators” across South Africa who are finding innovative ways to transform their communities and the country as a whole.

Western Cape based Activator Siphelele Chirwa is one of many young South Africans who are active in creating public awareness on the importance of registering for the coming Municipal Elections. Chirwa believes that one of the major reasons youth do not vote is that they do not know how local government works. They only interact with local government to express their concerns. Chirwa suggested that youth should not be reminded that voting is their democratic right. Instead the youth should be shown how powerful their votes are towards strengthening our democracy.

Thabang Phokungwana, an Activator from North West pleaded with all unregistered eligible voters, especially the youth, to not only consider  voting as a political process but also as an opportunity to shape the future of South Africa for generations to come.“ We have been told many stories about what our previous leaders have done for South Africa. We might not be facing the same challenges nowadays but they played a major role in securing a free and democratic South Africa for us. It is now up to us to move the country forward and one of the most viable tools we have is voting,” said Phokungwana.

Other young people like Zikhona Mgwali have vowed to use the upcoming municipal elections as a tool to challenge status quo and change South Africa political landscape. Mgwali and many other young people are intending to use the current youth related social and political issues as an ultimatum to make demands from any political party that wants their support. Mgwali said: “For the first time in South African democracy, political leaders will not look at young people as their ticket to higher political self-enriching positions. With issues like Fees Must Fall, young people will make sure that all elected leaders account not just to their constituencies but to the whole country.”

Prominent independent political analyst and Activator, Ralph Mathekg believes that the 2016 Municipal registrations and elections will present many challenges to all political stakeholders who are counting on youth votes. Mathekg said the recent isolated youth uprising incidents will make it even harder for anyone who used to rely on political rhetoric to attract young voters. “Gone are those days where South Africa vibrant and robust politics would force youth to be spectators. Most young people are interested in politics but will only participate under one condition and that is if politicians assure them of specific measurable, attainable, realistic deliverables. Registration and elections alone can never be starting point of attracting young voters. Current youth related issues like Fees Must Fall might play role but I do not foresee any drastic rise of youth registration and voting turnout,” he added.

All registration stations will open from 08h00 untill 17h00 on Saturday 5 March and Sunday 6 March for new voters to register and for existing voters to update and check their registration details. This is also an opportunity for registered voters to ensure that their address information is correct.

Unlike national and provincial elections, voting in a municipal election is only allowed at the station in the voting district in which you are registered to vote. A voter has to register where they live and vote where they are registered. Voters who do not know their voting stations can email IEC at email info@elections.org.za or website www.elections.org.za. Alternatively communicate with IEC through their Twitter handle @IECSouthAfrica or Facebook IECSouthAfrica.

Those who do not have access to the internet can call the IEC call centre on 0800 11 8000 between 7am and 9pm weekdays or dial *120*IEC# (*120*432#). Voters who are already registered can SMS their number to 32810(cost R1) to receive confirmation of their voter registration details including the name of their voting station. 

In terms of the Constitution the election must be held between 18 May and 16 August 2016. The exact date of the 2016 Municipal Elections is yet to be announced by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs David Van Rooyen.

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