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SA govt runs to MXit to engage younger crowd

It has become commonplace for politicians to engage audiences through social media. Whatever your views may be on the efficacy of, or motives behind these campaigns, one thing is clear, the public can engage with candidates and those in office like never before.

Martin Carstens: Senior reporter
Obsessed with technology and the future, I write words for machines and people. Born in South Africa, now living in the United States. More

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MXit is a South African social media success story, the largest network of its kind in Africa. On the eve of Freedom Day, a significant South African public holiday which celebrates the country’s first post-apartheid elections, MXit hosted an event fostering engagement between the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the public.

The NPC is a government initiative tasked with developing a long term vision and strategic plan for South Africa. As part of its national dialogue campaign, the NPC has entered into a partnership with MXit to “involve all South Africans, especially its youth, in a dialogue about the future of the country”. MXit is home to a younger demographic, which fits in well with the NPC’s aim. Forty-nine percent of MXit’s users are aged between 18 and 24 and only 10% of its user base is older than 35.

Memeburn was invited to MXit’s headquarters in Stellenbosch to listen as Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency in charge of the NPC talked about “handing over to the next generation.”

The Minister used MXit’s new NPC portal to field questions from the MXit community and encouraged those participating to give their thoughts on “eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030“. “We are the 1976 generation, by 2030, we will be out of leadership. Those who will lead in 2030, must start to take the responsibility now,” said Minister Manuel.

Over 5 000 people have signed up for the portal and there were a total of 49 people either participating or waiting in the queue to participate. Only 10 people are allowed into the chat room at a time and each person can participate for four minutes.

Today’s event wasn’t without its challenges. A minor few participants went off topic, Minister Manuel was only available for a short while, leaving additional questions to be fielded by his representatives and the quality of questions asked left something to be desired. But, it’s a start and it can only get better as the platform evolves.