The 2019 general elections recorded the lowest voter turnout since South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.
In this year’s elections, the registered South African voter population came in at 26 779 025, a 5.47% increase from 2014. However, the actual voter turnout this year was only 65.99%, an 11% decrease from 2014, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).
The IEC reported that 25 388 082 South Africans registered to vote in the previous elections (2014) and 18 654 771 of those registered voters cast their votes, resulting in a 73.48% voter turnout.
In an effort to find out reasons behind the poor voter turnout from last week’s national election, Citizen Surveys – a marketing and social research consultancy, specialising in national research studies- conducted a survey to determine whether or not a lack of trust in political parties had contributed to the abstention.
Citizen Surveys strategic research director and spokesperson Reza Omar told City Press that from their survey it was evident that the time of political parties making empty promises was coming to an end.
“By trust we mean, if someone says I don’t trust that you will keep your promise, it means they don’t trust your credibility. During elections each political party made promises to the South African public that they would address the most important problems facing the country,” he said.
According to Citizen Survey, 73% of South Africans believed that unemployment was the most pressing problem, followed by crime at 34%, corruption at 25%, and poverty and destitution at 23%.
Omar added: “We asked a representative sample of 1300 South Africans who are 18 years and older from across the country the question: ‘How much do you agree/disagree that the ANC keeps its promises, that the Democratic Alliance (DA) keeps its promises and that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) keeps its promises?’”
“The results indicated that only 34% of adults believe that the ANC keeps its promises, followed by 25% and 20% who believe the DA and EFF, respectively, keep their promises to the South African people.”
EFF student command president, Peter Keetse, partly agreed with the survey and said that those in leadership positions had played a role in whether or not the young people of this country took to the polls.
He told City Press: “Most of the youth did not go vote because the ruling party had been making empty promises. Young people are very dynamic in their thinking – if you lie to them once as the ruling party has actually done over and over again – they will not take you seriously no matter what you say after the fact.”
Ahead of the elections, one of the main focuses of the electoral commission campaign was young people: to encourage them to register and vote.
The electoral commission targeted young people with its “Xsê” campaign, which they had hoped would “become part of the lexicon of South African youth during the elections”, as declared by the commission’s chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo.
According to Omar, Citizen Survey also explored the possible role played by unmotivated youth during this year’s elections.
“We looked at the unemployed youth [individuals between the ages of 18 -29] and analysed them,” he said.
“There were three contributing factors that played a role in their decision not to vote. 63% of them were unemployed, 64% believed that the economy would not improve over the next 12 months and 87% of them believed that corruption would increase,” he said.
However, ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe was optimistic about youth participation in this year’s elections.
“Young people did participate in this election. They went out to cast their votes and we are encouraged by that. It means that they are beginning to understand the importance of consolidating our own democratic gain,” he told City Press.
During the 2014 elections the top three parties, the ANC, DA and the EFF received 62.15%, 22.23% and 6.35% of the votes respectively.
Two of the top three political parties lost support this year. The ANC received 57.50% of the votes and the DA finished with 20.77%. However, the six-year-old EFF increased its support base and garnered 10.79% of the votes.