What a campaign

2014-05-11 15:00

And what campaigners the three leading parties turned out to be. The governing ANC is masterful.

Go to Cyrildene in Joburg and you will find posters in Mandarin because the area is home to a large Chinese community – a symbol of a campaign that has blanketed every nook and cranny of Mzansi.

Until the last day, the official opposition put up fresh posters, flew ribbons and pushed hard to win a second province. It didn’t, but not through a lack of trying.

The campaign of the year goes to Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who proved it need not be “cold outside the ANC”.

With red berets and copious amounts of swag, the EFF will take about 20 MPs to the legislature. Cape Town will never be the same again once Parliament reopens.

It is a good showing for a new party, only slightly less than the Congress of the People (remember them) managed when it broke away from the ANC ahead of the 2009 elections.

As the country ends a tough election season, here are seven things worth thinking about to make democracy stronger:


Not many eligible citizens born after 1994 chose to vote on Wednesday. Is electoral politics a turn-off? How do young people want to be citizens? These are important questions for the youth to answer and then to take action.

Voter education

At 20 years old, our democracy is still new. But what became clear this week is people do not know enough about how elections work.

Young and jobless

A key reason young people did not register to vote or did not vote is because of unemployment. South Africa has 3?million young and unemployed citizens. That’s like being locked out of their own country. Surely this must be our top priority?

Is small good?

Small parties took a knock and thousands of votes were exercised, but proved ineffective. It is a sign of a vibrant democracy that so many people decided they didn’t like the options and decided to go it alone and form parties.

But we need to make one of two choices: raise the bar for participation to cut out those with no chance, or publicly fund start-ups better so they campaign more strongly.

Opacity: follow the money

There was a lot of money sloshing around for these elections. The campaigns were expensive and sophisticated.

But who were the funders and what were their motives? No doubt, corporations and foundations give as an act of supporting effective multiparty democracy. But citizens need to be able to follow the money. An example: if SABMiller is a big funder, how will parties it supports vote when policies to limit alcohol advertising come their way?


The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has developed a reputation for efficient, free and fair elections. But it wobbled this time. There were logistical problems it usually avoids and the unanswered questions surrounding its chairperson.


The broadcaster engaged in censorship several times during this campaign, banning opposition party political advertising on spurious grounds.

While its newscasters do an often admirable job, the broadcaster needs executives who will live up to the mandate of being public servants, not party stooges.

Nkandla is not a big issue

Surprisingly, the spending on the president’s residence did not emerge as a huge issue in the campaign, except among middle class and city people. But...

...?water is huge

Water and its scarcity are the biggest drivers of election fortune or misfortune. Here’s the kicker: water scarcity is often linked to corruption, where provision is delayed by mafiosos who run water tankers.

Free education

It turns out that if we want more young people to vote, we need to give them an opportunity. On the campaign trail, the desire to get further (for free) was a big issue.

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