“Don’t blame us blame the IEC” was the common response of political youth leaders to the low turnout at the just ended voter registration exercise.
Shifting the blame from themselves they claimed that the disappointing numbers, especially among st the youth, was because the Independent Electoral Commision (IEC) did not ‘speak their language.’
Botswana Movement for Democracy Youth League (BMDYL) President Phenyo Segokgo claimed: “We did all we could to educate the youth to register, but the IEC did not target young people in their campaign.
Their campaign was too generic- most youth did not pick the message because it was not clear to them.”
He attributed young people’slack of interest in local politics to the belief that politicians of today are not trustworthy.
“They ask us why they should register and vote for people who are not principled.
To them it is like giving somebody a job whilst they remain jobless. The youth are protesting because most don’t see the need to change the status quo.
They simply don’t care who becomes the leader,” Segokgo said.
Asked how his party responded to such apathy he said that they had held workshops around the country, and would continue to do so in order to educate the youth on the importance of voting.
His counterpart at the Botswana Democratic Party Youth League (BDPYL) Andy Boatile also pointed the finger of blame at the IEC.
“They should have targeted the youth with clear messages on the importance of voting.
We have done all we could through workshops,but the IEC has not helped spread the message,” he said.
He admitted that convincing the youth to make their mark at the ballot box was a difficult task beause of their mistrust of politicians and the political process.
“The low turnout is worrisome.
We need to use such tools as social networking and roadshows to reach the youth and provide voter education,” he said.
For his part IEC spokesperson Osupile Maroba admiited that the low turnout was a concern to the Commission, but rejected the crticism that they had not done enough to reach out to the youth.
“I’m a civil servant not a poltican so I don’t want to get involved in a public arguemnt with them.
What I can say is that we have engaged youth ambassadors in all 57 constituencies to talk to the youth on the importance of voting.
They have created facebook pages so that they can interact with the youth. Our belief is that a young person can learn better when taught by another young person.”
Maroba has also taken the message to what he called ‘youth friendly’ radio stations and was satisfied that they had done enough to spread the message.
“ We used up our entire advertising budget on this campaign. I believe we have done a lot,” he said.
WHAT THEY SAID
26-year-old Kabelo Montsho was one of the 921852 eligible voters who did not make it to a registration point last week. He explained: “I did not register because it is not easy to trust the people who are supposed to lead us.
One time they are bad mouthing one party, the next minute they have changed to that very party which they were criticizing.
“ What I want as a voter is to feel represented, not having people line their pockets. We need genuine politicians who have the needs and concerns of the people at heart. Only then would I consider taking part in the supplementary registration.” DIDN’T REGISTER
Onalethata Tau (31) had intended registering but didn’t.“I have voted in previous elections and I wanted to participate in the coming one too. I am aware of the importance of exercising my right to choose a leader to represent me.
Unfortunately I was busy preparing for final exams and touching up projects – it’s a hectic period for us academically so I didn’t get around to registering. Maybe the registration should be done during school breaks.” DIDN’T REGISTER
23-year-old Monkgogi Keboneilwe from Natale will be on the voter role come 2014. “It will be my first time to cast my vote, and I know how very important that is. It’s my right to vote deserving leaders into government.
“We need leaders who are powerful, with the necessary qualities to take our country to another level and develop it. Our current leaders are good, but there are some who need to be booted out.” REGISTERED
Chakopa Keneilwe Malenge (19) is excited to be a registerd voter. “Yes, I have registered. It will be my first time and I want to choose leaders who can improve my quality of life and live up to their promises. As a country we need leaders who are honest and hard working – not those who are only seen when it is time for elections.
“Some politicians only want to acquire wealth for themselves.
As the youth we have a dire need for jobs, and employment opportunities is one thing I am looking for the leaders of this country to provide.” REGISTERED
Boitumelo Kenyafetse has encounted administrative problems in her bid to get registered.
“I have not registered because the omang people won’t give me a new identity card simply because I mistakenly wrote my mother’s birthplace as Mahalapye instead of Mokgware.
They say I must bring elders to bear witness that my mother who is late is indeed my mum.
I am hoping for a supplementary registration so I may register. I would really love to vote.” DIDN’T REGISTER
John Lebang has no faith in politicians and the political process.
“I have not registered because I have realised that politicians from across the political divide do not keep their promises.
I know that I will still be jobless no matter whether I vote or not.
I have no reason to think voting will change anything for me or anybody else. Elections are just a big joke.” DIDN’T REGISTER
Emmanuel Tumelo’s message was short in making the point: “I have no interest in politics and that is why I have not registered to vote.
I believe in God and my destiny and life depends on HIM and not any politician.” DIDN’T REGISTER
Last Sunday the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) concluded the voter registration exercise in preparation for next year’s general election.
In the 2009 election 725,858 people excercised their democratic right to vote, and this time around the IEC had hoped to register at least 1.2 million voters out of the1.4 million eligible to cast their vote.
Unfortunately after the three week long national exercise only 478,148 had registered, which works out at 29.2% of those eligible.
The low turn out is certain to make it necessary to have a supplementary voter registration early next year.
*For a complete breakdown of statistics showing the numbers who registered around the country, and the comparisions to the last election, see our web page at: www.thevoicebw.com