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LOBAMBA – Young people between the ages of 16 and 17 years may soon be allowed to register for the national elections.

This was said when the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Pholile Shakantu, was presenting the Voters Registration Amendment Bill of 2023. During her preamble, where the minister was taking senators through the Bill, she stated that it (Bill) was also aimed at allowing young people between the ages of 16 and 17 to register for elections. Under the current legislation, only people from the age of 18 years can register to vote in the national elections. With the proposed amendments, those who will be turning 18 years in the course of the incoming 12th Parliament will be allowed to register and vote should the need arise.


This category will be allowed to vote once they turn 18, if the need for by-elections arise. The minister explained that the reason they proposed this amendment was to broaden the participation of people in the national elections. She said this was also proposed to enable young people, who would have not turned 18 during the entire exercise of the national elections, to practise their right to vote during by-elections. Shakantu explained that the proposal did not mean the 16 and 17-year-olds, upon registering, would be allowed to vote this year. She said they would not vote this year because they would have not reached the eligible age, which is 18 years and would only exercise their right should by-elections be held in the future within their constituency.


The minister noted that some constituencies, during the course of the elected Parliament’a five years, lost their elected candidates through resignation or passing away, two years in office.
She said this scenario would call for by-elections and by extension, this youth bracket would then be eligible to vote as they would have turned 18 years, hence the proposal to allow them to register now. The minister urged the senators to pass the Bill urgently to so that the proposed amendments could come into effect after being gazetted. The registration for the 2023 National Elections will end next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Senator Prince Magudvulela said the proposed amendment would encourage youth participation and lauded the minister for the suggestion. “That would encourage young people to participate in national elections because the people elected to these seats would be formulating laws that would improve their wellbeing in the future and develop the country,” he said. During the sitting, Senator Chief Mshengu raised concerns about the timing of the Bill. He said such amendments should have made it to Parliament well on time. The senator said this would enable both Houses of Parliament to have enough time to scrutinise each clause and ensure that they passed a sound legislation.