By Gill Price
All South Africans over the age of 18 and above have a right to vote in an election. This right was not available to the majority of the people of this country before the new democratic dispensation in 1994.
The right to vote is a culmination of years of sacrifice and struggle for our freedom. Our struggle for freedom secured the right for every South African to be active participants in our democratic system.
There are many who fought for our freedom but never had the opportunity to exercise this precious right. This year we will all have an opportunity to cast our vote in honour of all those who gave up their lives for the treasured right to vote. As citizens we have the responsibility to ensure that their sacrifices and suffering is not in vain by registering to vote for this year’s elections.
The current term of national and provincial legislatures elected in 2019 will end in May this year and the Constitution prescribes that the elections should be held within 90 days of the expiry of that period.
As it is the norm, that day will be declared a special public holiday by the President to ensure that all eligible voters have sufficient time to cast their votes. On election day, only registered voters will be allowed to vote and our last chance to register to vote is this weekend on the 3rd and 4th of February 2024.
This is the second registration weekend following the successful first registration weekend held on 18 and 19 November 2023. We appeal to all eligible voters especially young people to register to vote on the 3rd and 4th of February 2024. To register, you should be 16 years old, be a South African citizen, and in possession of a green barcoded ID book or a smartcard ID. However, you can only vote when you are 18 years and older.
Registering to vote has been made easier, you can visit the Electoral Commission’s Voter Portal at https://registertovote.elections.org.za. You can now register anytime, anywhere and from the comfort of your own home.
Those who have already registered are encouraged to update their details especially if they have moved since the last general elections.
This year’s elections coincide with the commemoration of the 30 Years of Freedom and further demonstrates just how far our country has come since 1994. Ever since the start of our democracy, regular elections have been held to renew and strengthen our democracy and are a reminder that our nation has been transformed.
We are widely recognised as having the most progressive constitution in the world. Together with a number of independent and democratic institutions created to safeguard our freedoms, we have deepened our democracy and produced a new environment where the culture of human rights is respected.
By celebrating our functioning democracy we are not saying there are no remaining challenges or that everything is picture-perfect. Instead, we acknowledge that we still have a long way to go but are steadfast in our determination to ensure a better life for all.
We therefore appeal for all eligible voters to register to vote so that they can make South Africa the place they want it to be and build on the gains we have made over the last 30 Years of Freedom.
Gill Price is GCIS Director: Communication Resource Centre