Your power is in your vote  

/sites/default/files/images/Elias.jpgBy Elias Tibane

When President Cyril Ramaphosa recently proclaimed Wednesday, 29 May 2024 as the date for the General Elections, which also coincide with the country’s celebration of 30 Years of Freedom, he unleashed the race for various political parties, old and newbies, to scramble for votes. The upcoming elections seek to usher in a new National Assembly and provincial legislatures in each of the nine provinces.

The midweek date for the country’s seventh national and provincial elections was proclaimed in terms of Section 49(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, read with Section 17 of the Electoral Act of 1998. Much to the delight of workers who enjoy a brief break, the President also – in terms of Section 2A of the Public Holidays Act of 1994 – proclaimed the day of the election as a public holiday throughout South Africa.

However, this special day does not mean that registered voters should relax at home and avoid the crucial elections. This is an opportune time for all of us to go out in our numbers to exercise our hard-won right to vote, which was previously deprived the majority of South Africans during apartheid.

To appreciate the significant value of voting under the conditions of universal adult suffrage since the end of apartheid in 1994, we must reflect on the gains of our democracy, which must not be taken for granted. Many political activists risked long-term detention under harsh prison conditions and some paid the ultimate price to bring us the freedom and democracy we enjoy today. 

Staying away from the polls, for whatever reasons, is tantamount to scoffing at the selfless sacrifices made by our courageous freedom fighters. Some of those still alive today still bear the gruesome scars of the brutality of the apartheid system; lest we forget their individual and collective contributions to the Struggle.

Failure to vote robs you of the vociferous voice to complain about bread-and-butter issues such as poor service delivery in your community. If you do not vote, it would sound disingenuous to express dissatisfaction about the shoddy performance of any elected political party.

By voting for a political party of our choice, not only are we honouring the contributions of renowned Struggle stalwarts such as, among many others, former President Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, but we will also be entrenching our maturing democracy. As we begin counting down to the elections, and indeed our celebration of 30 years of freedom and democracy, we must  focus more on positive developments. 

Despite experiencing surmountable challenges such as the economic downturn mainly attributed to the devastating impact of the Coronavirus Disease and the intermittent load-shedding that retards economic growth, South Africa boasts many remarkable achievements and successes in improving the lives of people. All democracies are a constant work in progress, and ours is not an exception. Nevertheless, Statistics South Africa’s Census 2022 showed that the country has since changed for the better. It reaffirms the emergence of an inclusive South Africa that has worked tirelessly to redress of the imbalances of our past and improve the lives of the majority.

Our country has come a long way since the first historic election in April 1994 and this year, we have the opportunity to consolidate our democratic gains, and underscore our impressive record of holding free and fair elections.

In his Presidential Inauguration Speech in Pretoria in May 1994, Madiba said: “We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.” He further said: “We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation-building, for the birth of a new world.”

Like our founding fathers, we have the power to decide on the quality of life we want for ourselves, our communities and future generations. Voting gives us a chance to deal with pertinent issues affecting us.

By going out in our numbers to vote on 29 May 2024, we will be strengthening our democracy and sustaining the noble principle of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Remember, your power is in your vote.