/ 2 February 2024

Register to vote to determine the future you want

Votes were being transferred from ballot bags to ballot boxes as special votes kicked off on Monday.
This coming weekend of the 3 and 4 February is the last voter registration weekend before the national and provincial elections take place. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

This coming weekend of the 3 and 4 February is the last voter registration weekend before the national and provincial elections take place, possibly in May. This year will also mark 30 years of our democracy, which gives these elections a heightened significance. This time prompts citizens to reflect on the government’s accomplishments and shortcomings over the three decades. It is these reflections that should guide people’s voting choices.

The 2024 elections will be highly contested. Some polls are projecting that the ANC will fall below 50% of the vote, potentially leading to coalition governments at the national and provincial levels. Coalition governments have been chaotic in the metro municipalities resulting in poor service delivery. The possibility of coalition governments thus causes apprehension. 

The rising lawlessness, crime, corruption, and levels of unemployment necessitate that the country takes a different direction. 

The 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index  paints a negative picture about South Africa’s progress in dealing with public sector corruption. The report, which measures perceptions of corruption in 180 countries, has placed South Africa at 41 among flawed democracies. Although perceptions may differ from reality, they should not be taken lightly.

Despite these problems, the ruling party asserts its commitment to renewal, acknowledging internal struggles that have impeded governance and fostered corruption.

It is imperative to prioritise the renewal of South Africa itself rather than relying solely on the internal renewal of the ANC. The nation requires a transformative shift characterised by leaders who will prioritise the welfare of the people, and who will be accountable for their decisions. We need a new political culture that will be defined by honesty, compassion and a passion to serve the country. 

With more than 300 political parties having registered with the Electoral Commission of South Africa, we need to scrutinise the calibre of the candidates. We need to interrogate the manifestos of these political parties and the practicality and feasibility of the promises they make.

This is a time to reject those who we know are crooks and lack the ability to build a South Africa that is equal, unified and corruption free. 

Reflecting on the recent murder of a Rand Water executive and his bodyguard at a back-to-school event in Zakariyya Park, where a large number of young people were present; metro municipalities that are dysfunctional and unable to serve residents effectively; the past tragedies such as the Life Esidimeni incident, the Marikana Massacre; as well as state capture compels voters to question whether this is the South Africa they aspire to. 

Although the future remains uncertain, the present, characterised by a myriad of problems, is not ideal for nation-building. It is the duty of every citizen to exercise their right to vote to influence the country’s direction. 

As we prepare to register to vote this weekend, all citizens, in particular young people, must reflect honestly about the state of the country and what the future should be. These elections are an opportunity to shape the future, so register to vote.Zusipe Batyi is the communications manager at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. He writes in his personal capacity.