In preparation for Local Government Elections 2021, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Youth
Activism Programme partnered up with Accountability Lab South Africa, to host a series of voter
education workshops across the various community based, Kathrada Youth Activist Clubs.
The workshop series focused on linking civic education – which unpacked the in’s and out’s around
Local Government Elections, the process of voting and the importance of exercising the right to vote.
The workshop also delves into the importance and role of young people in strengthening our
democratic systems from a grassroots level.
This project titled ‘Youth for Civic Change’, highlights the importance of youth in driving civic change
from within our respective communities. The project involved going into communities where our
youth clubs are situated rolling out discussions around elections, voting, the role of local
government and the role of a voter. In addition, we hosted a voter registration drive and series of
online posts and engagements to encourage youth participation in the electoral process.
The workshop sessions granted us access to many Kathrada Youth Club members, majority of whom
are yet to cast their first vote in a national election of any kind. Our workshops began by posing the
question, “Do you, as a young person, plan on voting in the upcoming local government elections?”
While few will be voting, the majority remain unsure for a multitude of reasons, mainly, not
understanding what or who they would be voting for in Local Government Elections. Others shared
feelings of general disillusionment with existing political parties and detachment from political
processes, even though it is always said that the “youth are the future and have the power”.
Our workshops allow us to engage with the young people of our youth clubs and listen to their
experiences and lived realities. One participant was involved in a back and forth dialogue where he
tried to explain why he thinks voting is a waste of time and won’t change his life in any way. He
expressed that his Grandmother was someone who was very active in the community and always
tried to participate in local projects and voting. The facilitators took time to try and explain that the
process of change is incremental, takes a lot of effort, mobilization and time. Another participant
noted that the political space in their community is dominated by older people and that he felt that
this deterred a lot of youth in the area from being vocal and from participating. We addressed these
concerns through a series of discussions followed by Civics academy resources to help broaden
At the end of our workshops, members who were unsure at the beginning of the sessions indicated
that they would now take to the polls and cast their vote. Others indicated that they felt empowered
in knowing that they could still participate in decision-making processes and making change even if
they were unable to vote in this particular election. Significantly, it seemed that many of the
participants were inspired to become more involved in the governance of their community and
indicated an interest in organising further through the Kathrada Youth Club in their area.
The workshops have highlighted the grave and harsh conditions that many communities face. These
range from poor or no service delivery, ageing and dilapidated infrastructure, no jobs or economic
activity, no schools, libraries and safe places to play, the prevalence of drugs and other harmful
substances, and the huge scourge of violence. While we address the broader issues, it is clear that
solutions must be community driven and owned to ensure sustainable measures can put in place to
deal with these issues. This is why the need for grassroots civic organising is so important to a
healthy and prosperous democracy.
This project is part of on-going work to strengthen civic education and participation by youth in their
communities. In preparation for the election we have also registered 50 election observers across
the province of Gauteng, this is done to ensure that we as an organisation also play our role in
ensuring the election is conducted freely and fairly.
The Kathrada Youth Activism Programme has already grown to 20 youth clubs across the province of
Gauteng in its two years of operation. There is a huge desire among youth people in the country to
be part of changing their lives and that of their fellow community members, and this movement
building programme allows us the space and opportunity to do so, whilst also carrying forward the
legacy and values of our founder, Ahmed Kathrada. We welcome the support of funders, donors and
justice loving people and organisations to ensure we can sustain this important foundational
democracy building work.