Poor are not fooled by politicians with gifts

The respondents are motivated to vote to make things better  and because it is their democratic right to do so.

The respondents are motivated to vote to make things better and because it is their democratic right to do so.

Does receiving a social grant from the state influence the decisions of poor voters at the ballot box? What are their perceptions of “vote-buying” behaviour, such as the distribution of food parcels by political parties, before election time?

These are among the questions asked by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA), whose findings are due to be published in full on May 28. But in the meantime, the centre has released an outline of the results of its research.

The centre conducted its research in three urban areas and one rural area, interviewing 1 204 people over the age of 18.

The study found that “70% of voters in three poor wards in Johannesburg and Limpopo said ‘the handing out of food parcels before an election is like vote buying’ .

“This indicates that most voters in poor communities disapprove of this practice before an election. Only 27% of the respondents thought that people are likely to vote for a party because it gave out food parcels.”

Three-quarters of the respondents, the study says, had “voted previously (either in national or local elections), and 80% said that they intend to vote on May 7 2014.

“They are motivated to vote because they want to make things better (93%), and also because they believe it is their democratic right to do so (90%). They view voting as a means to improve their lives.”

CSDA director Leila Patel says that more than “90% of people in our research actively engage with current political issues.

“They access information by regularly watching TV, listening to the radio and reading newspapers or online news, and a third then go on to discuss these issues with friends and family.”

The briefing documentation says that “service delivery issues are a major concern for many people”.

About 70% had attended a ward meeting concerning such issues, and a third of the respondents had taken part in a protest or strike. About 25% had “played an active role in a political party at some stage” and 20% had “attended political rallies or trade union meetings”.

More than 90% of those interviewed “believed most strongly that they had a right to basic education, social security, access to healthcare, food and water … and adequate housing”.

Respondents were less certain “that social protection policies for the poor – such as free healthcare, free education, subsidised housing and social grants – would continue if another party [other than the ANC] came to power”.

Asked whether they thought “social grants from the government would continue if another party came to power, 51% agreed that they would continue, but another 25% did not think they would continue and 24% were unsure”.

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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