/ 20 November 2023

IEC: More than 560 000 people register as first-time voters

November 01 2021 Local Government Elections 2021, Polling Stations Around Cape Town. Photo By David Harrison
South Africa’s youth are not apathetic but they don’t feel connected to the government and political parties and they don’t trust politicians. (David Harrison/M&G)

A total of 568 374 first-time voters registered for next year’s national and provincial election when the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) launched its first registration drive over the past weekend.

Speaking during a media briefing on Monday, IEC chairperson Sy Mamabolo said the commission interacted with 2.9 million voters, with 2.7 million voters physically visiting voting stations to register or to update their details. A total of 196 511 voters used the online portal to do the same.

Eligible citizens lodged their details at 23 296 stations across the country.

Mamabolo said the newly registered voters account for 19.57% of total registration activity, with 445 089 (78.31% ) of the 568 374 new voters aged 16 to 29 years. 

The IEC has in the past raised concern over poor registration turnout of the younger voters. Political parties have also taken on the task of improving the young voter demographic. 

About 63.3% of South Africa’s population are people in the 15 to 34 age category, Statistic South Africa noted in 2020. 

“The commission’s continued focus on young persons is producing a good yield. The commission will persist with efforts to improve the registration levels of the youth,” Mamabolo said.

He added that 1.4 million voters re-registered in the same voting district, and those who re-registered in a different voting district numbered 929 564.

The update comes after the IEC on Saturday said it had broken its previous record for its highest registration activity on a single day, with more than 26 000 voters registering for next year’s general elections.

On Monday, Mamabolo said the voters’ roll now stands at 26.8 million voters, an increase from 26.3 million before the registration weekend. 

“Gauteng continues to be inhabited by the majority of the country’s population, as well as being the largest voting block at 6.2 million registered voters.”

He said that Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape recorded the most registrations, with Gauteng at 610 948 , KwaZulu-Natal at 559 933 and Eastern Cape at 516 547.

Political parties have zeroed in on Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with the governing ANC predicted to take a knock in its numbers in the two most populous provinces.  

Mamabolo said: “The well-entrenched trend of there being more females on the voters’ roll continues. Of the new registrations, 298 500, or 52.52%, were female.” 

He added that since its inception in July 2021, the online registration portal has proven to be a success.

Mamabolo attributed the IEC’s success in this registration to the innovation and efficiencies introduced by the Voter Management Device (VMD) which has

increased the speed at which voter registration applications are processed. 

“With the VMD, particulars of voters who attended voting stations over the weekend have now been processed and address details captured onto the voter’s roll.

“Before the introduction of the VMD, it would have taken months to capture address details of voters following a registration event,” he said.

He added that the VMD processed 834 474 live transactions, while 1 872 352 transactions were captured and later processed. “This is a testament to the soundness of providing a mode that enables the VMD to operate in varied connectivity environments.”

The IEC is waiting for President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce the election date, which is expected to take place some time from May to August next year.

The National Assembly and the nine provincial legislatures’ terms of office would conclude in the middle of May 2024. The seventh parliament of the democratic era must be elected within 90 days of that date, he said.

During his visit to voting stations on Saturday, Ramaphosa said he would meet all the stakeholders, including the IEC, to decide on the date.