Editorial: Restore trust in the system

Voters queue to cast their ballots in South Africa's parliamentary and provincial elections, in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 8, 2019. Picture: Reuters
Voters queue to cast their ballots in South Africa's parliamentary and provincial elections, in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 8, 2019. Picture: Reuters

There are 35 million South Africans who were eligible to vote in the elections last week. Only 26 million bothered to register to vote. Of that number, only 17 million actually voted on Wednesday.

In percentage terms, 65% of the registered voters cast their ballot.

In 2014 the turnout was at 73%, quite high and consistent with the voting patterns since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

Compared with other nations internationally, 65% could be considered a relatively high number. But by our standards this represents a real and worrying drop.

We should be able to read these stats for what they are: A warning sign that more and more people are becoming disenchanted with our politics.

What is even more worrying is that the youth, who are the future, are the ones most disillusioned with the electoral politics.

Only 18.5% of first-time voters took the effort to register. Stats SA says only 341 186 out of 1.8 million youth between the ages of 18 and 19 bothered to register.

South Africa is still a country in transition from an apartheid past trying to forge a new democratic culture that works for everyone and that all of us should be buying into. But this is clearly not the case.

Many young people still cannot identify with the political culture.

Citizen Surveys – a marketing and social research consultancy – conducted a study to determine whether a lack of trust in political parties had contributed to the abstention.

They found that there was a general lack of trust in political parties and politicians. The main reason was empty promises which politicians have no intention of implementing.

With fresh mandates our government has another five years to prove sceptics wrong and deliver on its mandate and thereby, with luck, engender trust in the system.

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July 2020

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Ban should have stayed
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