South Africa initiated a significant voter registration campaign on Saturday, aiming to combat widespread apathy leading up to the national elections next year. Polling stations nationwide welcomed individuals to register or verify their details during a two-day initiative, seeking to re-engage voters who have shown declining participation in recent years.

In the face of poor services, a prolonged energy crisis, and a struggling economy, many South Africans have become disillusioned with their government. Voter turnout has steadily decreased every five years since the historic 1994 democratic elections, with only 49 percent of eligible voters participating in the 2019 elections.

Young people, in particular, have been notably absent from the voting process, with only 15 percent of 18 to 19-year-olds and 30 percent of 20 to 29-year-olds casting votes in 2019. The electoral commission took to social media, urging the 14 million unregistered youth to register and mobilize their peers.

Despite these efforts, some were skeptical or disinterested. At a registration station in an affluent Johannesburg suburb, only a modest number of people had visited by closing time. A sense of disillusionment was expressed by 20-year-old Noluthando Tshazibane, who questioned the worthiness of participating in the electoral process.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC), once highly esteemed under Nelson Mandela’s leadership, has faced a decline in popularity due to allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Despite this, the disaffection with the ANC has not necessarily translated into support for the opposition.

As the electoral commission announced the upcoming elections would take place between May and August next year, President Cyril Ramaphosa encouraged ANC activists to campaign vigorously, emphasizing the party’s ability to govern the country. However, some citizens, like a 26-year-old medical student in Johannesburg, expressed a lack of confidence in the political landscape, citing a dearth of appealing options and domination by “old people” in South African politics.

Quest: Udomah Ejiroghene.

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