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CURTIS SINGO | Voting an important part of democracy as it impacts the outcome of elections

Participating helps strengthen voters’ decision-making role

Final voter registration weekend in Cosmo City on February 3 in Johannesburg. Voting allows people to be part of the decision-making that affects their lives and the country’s future.
Final voter registration weekend in Cosmo City on February 3 in Johannesburg. Voting allows people to be part of the decision-making that affects their lives and the country’s future.
Image: Lubabalo Lesolle

Now that President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially announced that the national elections will take place on May 29 while, on the other hand, the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) has also completed the final phase of online voter registration; it is now up to the electorate to do its part and exercise their right to vote.

Therefore, as we prepare for the upcoming elections, it is important to remember that SA’s democracy gave rise to a constitution respected worldwide for its values. The Bill of Rights enshrined rights, which include those that give citizens a voice of reason through voting when elections are conducted and states that any citizen aged 18 and older has the right to vote, allowing them to be part of the decision-making that affects their lives and the country’s future.

Logic thus permits us to reflect that, over the years, SA’s democracy has been evolving, with national and provincial elections conducted in 1999, 2004,2009, 2014, and 2019.

The turnout for the first democratic elections held in 1994, which saw 19 million citizens cast their votes, was significant as it represented 87% of the population. A lot has happened since then but as we approach the next national elections, we will always remind ourselves of the excitement shown by first-time voters, particularly elders who, for decades, were denied the right to vote by the unjust system of apartheid.

As we are towards the national elections, we should ask ourselves whether the same excitement as of 1994 will be replicated in the upcoming national elections. However, the picture depicted by the numbers of registered voters hints at a depressing answer as the IEC announced that only 27 million South Africans out of 42 million eligible voters from a 62 million population have registered to vote.

It is concerning that the current registered population represent about 45% of the country’s population, and if calculations are accurate, the difference between now and 1994 as far as electoral participation is concerned is only 8,4 million, meaning since 1994, the voters’ roll has grown by 0,28% per year despite population growth.

Such a trend is worrying as it signifies determined apathy due to unhappiness towards decision-makers. As a result, the electorates seem ready to disengage to the extent of neglecting the constitution, which empowers them to be part of the decision-making that affects their lives and the country’s future.

This has led to the inclusive conclusion that those citizens eligible to register to vote are ignorant of the exhibited historical reality that black people, coloured people and Indians were not permitted to vote or participate in the electoral system.

Deeper introspection must occur unabatedly to avoid misconceptions propelling citizens apathy, as reflected by the continued low turnout during elections. So, it is time to rise above this apathy and regain consciousness to live in the reality that elections present a unique opportunity to assert our roles in strengthening democracy.

Participating in the upcoming elections will protect t and strengthen our democracy, which has been a backbone for the other countries in Africa since its inception in 1994.

This year’s election coincides with our 30th anniversary, signifying an important milestone in the country’s history. We should thus remind ourselves of the journey traveled since the dawn of democracy and that elections are part of the democracy we fought for.

While elections are a crucial aspect of democracy, they can also be a source of division and unrest, leading to the destruction of a nation, as manifested in some parts of the world.

Our people are cognisant that elections are a crucial aspect of democracy, and our participation can significantly impact the outcome; hence, they should not allow dubious narratives, selective sideshows or interest groups to influence their decision to participate in the democratic process.

■ Singo is a South Africandiplomat in Switzerland and a Ph.D. candidate. He writes in his personal capacity


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