More than 445 000 people aged 18 to 29 have registered to cast their vote in the Western Cape in the local government elections. It is the fourth largest age group heading to the polls on 1 November, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) central information portal.
In September, IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo welcomed the fact that young people accounted for 91% of new registrations nationwide, “mainly because of the availability of the online registration process”.
“We’ve made huge strides in this regard, the use of the online registration portal is beginning to give us the benefits of getting younger voters to be part of our political processes,” he said.
But will younger people watch out for ward councillors their own age when they head to the polls? The Mail & Guardian spoke to two independent candidates who are part of the younger generation.
For 27-year-old Kirsten Poking, who will be standing independently for Ward 57 in the Cape metropole, is adamant that age is only a number. “It just so happened that I am young.”
“It is not necessarily being young specifically, it’s about having a younger perspective. Period. Having a more energetic or just dynamic approach,” says Poking, speaking above the buzzing voices in a restaurant in Mowbray, one of the suburbs in her ward.
After years of being an activist in Bo-Kaap, where she participated in social and environmental upliftment programmes, Poking said she found more often than not that city officials were the obstacle rather than the bridge between residents, their problems, and projects that could have seen the youth empowered.
“We need an independent voice who will prioritise the community rather than party mandates. We need action to make actual changes,” says Poking, who aims to become that bridge between residents and local government. “We need a more progressive approach to these challenges.”
She was faced with multiple difficulties when she facilitated a skateboarding club for young girls in Bo-Kaap to teach them life skills and “courage”.
Poking’s mother, Jacky, is the ANC’s candidate for Ward 77 in Bo-Kaap.
Poking says: “There are many challenges and each needs their own unique solution,” referring to safety and security, inclusivity of people who are differently-abled, accountability and transparency, affordable transport and securing people’s heritage.
She believes the solutions to these problems can be found with the residents.
“We are a community that’s divided, and we don’t know how to come together, even communicate with each other. I’m a dedicated voice and a voice that’s going to be strong and true to this community,” she says.
Before she heads off to a sporting event to talk to parents, Poking says she is the best candidate for the ward because of her “tenacity and ability to bring people together”.
She is one of several people under the age of 30 contesting this year’s local government elections.
Langeberg’s young candidate
The Youth Independence Party & Youth Associates (YIPYA) will contest in the Langeberg local municipality and in the greater Cape Winelands District municipality. Its youngest contestant is 23-years-old.
Founder and president of the YIPYA, Roscoe Ivan Pekeur, 33, says youth representation is important to “reach youth independence in our lifetime. The youth are the future so [they] should lead us into a better future.”
The YIPYA argues that a candidate must be a resident in the ward they are contesting, asserting “it makes no sense that people from out of town run for a seat”. The YIPYA says its candidates in the 12 wards it is contesting live in those wards.
Pekeur says of the party’s structure that it is the “first and only” party in history “where the youth lead and the elders follow”. He says YIPYA consists of two leagues. The main league are those aged 16 to 35 and the big league includes those aged 36 and older.
“The party is led by the main league and it is supported by the big league — our elders. The president of the party must come from the main league and the vice-president from the big league. This way the party will always be led by the youth and supported by the elders for wisdom and advice,” he says.
Should the YIPYA succeed in the elections, the party, established in November 2020, four years after Pekeur left the Economic Freedom Fighters, wants to register at the national level.
In its manifesto, the YIPYA says it wants to be the “first fully free wi-fi municipality in the country”. It promises free wi-fi for those registered at the library in the Langeberg municipality from the start of 2022, while free wi-fi hotspots across the Langeberg region can be expected by 2025.
The party also wants to create youth employment by creating opportunities for 500 matrics annually to complete a three to 12-month course.
It also wants to introduce the first paid recycling programme, saying that at the moment recycling is done by residents without anyone receiving remuneration.
To put its manifesto to the test, the YIPYA has challenged various political party leaders such as President Cyril Rampahosa, The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Julius Malema, the Democratic Alliance’s John Steenhuisen and the Good party’s Patricia de Lille to a public manifesto debate at the King Edward Stadium, in Montagu.
Pekeur says confidently: “We are waiting at the gate of King Edward Stadium to debate our manifesto against any of theirs” before the elections on 1 November.