This past weekend was the last voter registration weekend before the national and provincial elections take place, with elections expected to be 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 past 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 African National Congress (ANC) will fall below 50%, potentially leading to a coalition government in national and provincial government.
Coalition governments have been chaotic in metro municipalities, resulting in a lack of service delivery, and general dysfunctionality. The possibility of a coalition government at national and provincial level causes apprehension.
The rising lawlessness, crime, corruption, and levels of unemployment necessitate that the country takes a different direction.
The 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index painted a negative picture of South Africa’s progress in dealing with public sector corruption.
The report, which measures perceptions of corruption in 180 countries, placed South Africa on 41 points - two points below its 2022 score, with the country now falling in the category of flawed democracies. Although perceptions may differ from the actual reality, they should not be taken lightly.
Despite these challenges, the ruling party asserts its commitment to renewal, acknowledging internal struggles that have impeded governance and fostered corruption.
In response, it becomes 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 over 300 political parties that have registered with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), we need to scrutinise the calibre of the candidates that will be presented to us. 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 cannot 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 at Zakariyya Park, where a large number of young people were present; on metro municipalities that are dysfunctional and unable to serve residents effectively, past tragedies such as Life Esidimeni and the Marikana Massacre, not forgetting State Capture. All these should compel voters to question if this is the South Africa they aspire to.
While the future remains uncertain, the present, characterised by a myriad of challenges, is not ideal for nation-building. Every citizen must exercise their right to vote to influence the country’s direction as these elections are an opportunity to shape the future.
Those who couldn't register this past weekend can do so online until an election date is proclaimed.
Zusipe Batyi is the communications officer of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. He writes in his personal capacity.