Voters condemn food parcels during election campaigns

Julius Malema handed out food parcels to poor voters when he was the leader of the AC Youth League. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has found this an abuse of state funds.

Julius Malema handed out food parcels to poor voters when he was the leader of the AC Youth League. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has found this an abuse of state funds.

A research report shows that voters, particularly in poor communities, believe that the handing out of food parcels during elections campaigns amounts to vote buying.

This month Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that the distribution of food parcels in 2009 by Julius Malema, then leader of the ANC Youth League, was an abuse of state resources.

“The conduct of SASSA and its officials in distributing state-purchased food parcels at a political party event and allowing a leader of a political party who does not work for government to distribute such food parcels was inconsistent with the provisions of section 195 of the Constitution and accordingly constitutes abuse of state resources and maladministration,” said Madonsela.

The CSDA report, published in 2014, found that 70% of voters in the three selected wards equated the handing out of food parcels before an election to ‘vote buying’. This suggests that most voters disapprove of handing out of food parcels before an election. Only 27% of those that participated in the study thought that people are more likely to vote for a political party because of food parcels.

The study also found that if elections were to be held in a day, 56% of respondents indicated that they would vote for the African National Congress and 17% for the Democratic Alliance.
Ten-percent refused to answer and 9% said that they didn’t know who they would vote for. The remaining 8% was distributed among other opposition parties. The Economic Freedom Fighters were formed during the course of the data collection and were not included in the list of potential parties.

In 2013, the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) at the University of Johannesburg conducted a study on voting behaviour and the influence of social protection in three disadvantaged communities: the two urban communities of Doornkop and Riverlea in Johannesburg, and a rural farming area in Groblersdal in Limpopo.

Professor Leila Patel, the director of CSDA, says the study had a particular focus on “poor” communities because they wanted to explore how social protection benefits and social grants, which are aimed at those who are unable to support themselves, impact on voters’ behaviour.

In the Public Protector report Madonsela called for a policy that sets out a clear separation between the state and party activities and for all public employees to be made aware of this policy.

Commenting on the CSDA report director Patel said: “I think the results of the study show that poor voters can apply their minds when it comes to elections. Many times they are perceived as vulnerable, but our research shows that they are not that easily persuaded and they have autonomy,” said Patel.

The local government elections are scheduled to take place on 3 August.

Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane

Pontsho Pilane was a health journalist at Bhekisisa, the Mail & Guardian's health journalism centre between 2016 and 2018. She debuted as a journalist at The Daily Vox, where she wrote primarily about gender, race and how they intersect. She was previously a general news reporter at the M&G. Pilane holds two degrees in media studies from Wits University. Read more from Pontsho Pilane

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