There was an electric atmosphere in the room at JoziHub in Milpark yesterday as South African youth from all spheres of life gathered to engage and share ideas and opinions on something big that has put them under the spotlight this year – the 2014 elections.
Live Magazine SA, an online and print magazine created by youth for the youth, hosted a debate titled ‘To vote or not to vote?’ that was focused on asking whether or not it’s important for youth to take part in the elections and how they view politics in South Africa.
The debate was part of Live Magazine’s year-long ‘Voting is Power’ (VIP) campaign focused on encouraging youth democratic participation in South Africa using various mediums, especially social media.
JoziHub was the main venue for the debate, with two other groups of youths from the Steve Biko Centre in King Williams Town and 88mph in Cape Town joining in on the debate via Google+ Hangouts.
Radio jock, DJ Fresh, writer and social-activist, Shaka Sisulu, comedian, Kagiso Lediga and journalist, Khadija Patel who are all well known personalities influencers among South Africa’s youth, were the panelists and speakers leading various topics in the debate.
The debate address topics such as born frees (youth born in 1994) changing politics in South Africa, the factors that influence the youth’s vote as well as corruption, service delivery, crime and unemployment.
One thing that was a major factor and anchor around the debate and the entire campaign was the power of social media, which Live Magazine junior social manager, Thapelo Mosiua, admits is the reason behind its success.
“Social media is a medium that young people love to express themselves through,” he starts off. “We managed to reach most of our audience using social media like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, SoundCloud, Mxit and Skype. Our goal is to reach 5 million youths by the end of 2014 and so far we have reached tens of thousands in a matter of months. We engage our audience by letting them contribute to what they want to see in our magazine and campaign.”
“The ultimate goal of our campaign is to get young people to vote on 7 May and participating beyond just voting but in becoming active citizens as well.”
Back in 2008, then presidential candidate, Barack Obama, harnessed the power of social media to draw young Americans in and get them voting for him. “That campaign was actually one of our inspirations for our own social media campaign,” admits Thapelo. “It was very successful and we think our politicians should definitely take note of that and use the same power.”
The Live Magazine teams efforts didn’t go unnoticed yesterday as its official hashtag #LiveVIPZA was trending across South Africa during and after the debate.
From here on forth it’s onwards and upwards for Live Magazine and its VIP campaign as more debates have been planned for the rest of the year and as it uses social media as its anchor platform for the campaign.
“Social media is the best way to reach young people and we can’t run away from that. It’s convenient for them,” concludes Thapelo.
Will the campaign achieve its desired and impact and get the youth interested and involved in politics and voting? That question will be only be answered on 7 May.
Hit the gallery below to see more photos from the debate: