30 years of free and fair elections

By Nomonde Mnukwa

Millions of South Africans are eagerly awaiting the 29th of May 2024, the day we make our mark and have our say by casting our votes for our 7th democratic elections. Since the first democratic elections in 1994 our nation has had a proud history of elections that are free and fair, and reflect the will of the people. 

In the lead up to the historic 7th democratic elections, which also coincides with 30 Years of Freedom and Democracy, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa has recorded over 27 000 000 citizens who registered to vote, which is almost one million more in comparison to our last elections in 2019. 

These numbers are indeed encouraging and show that our democracy remains strong and that the will of the people prevails.  All that now remains is for every registered voter to make their mark on Election Day by casting their vote at the voting station where they are registered. 

Every vote is precious and represents far more than just a number. Our vote signifies our voice in deciding who will govern and lead our nation forward. When we vote, we elect political parties and candidates as our public representatives. The act of voting renews our democracy and solidifies our rights as citizens. 

Through it we also exercise our constitutional responsibility as active participants in our democracy. When individuals choose not to vote, they deny themselves their rights to have a say in matters of governance.  
These basic human rights were born out of tremendous struggle for our democracy, and this year’s elections holds greater significance as we reflect on our nation’s commemoration of 30 years of Freedom and Democracy. 

To safeguard the process, the IEC has implemented various measures to ensure your vote is protected. It provides private cubicles to ensure the secrecy of your ballot, and political party representatives and independent agents are stationed at all voting stations to ensure the accountability for every vote.

With the clock ticking to our historic 7th general elections there is likely to be misleading and fake information shared on social media, which seek to falsely influence voters. We urge members of the public to double check their information and sources, and to refrain from sharing posts that seek to inflame tensions or spread mistruths. 

Another issue that often arises during elections is the case of spoiled ballot papers. A ballot paper is spoiled when an individual makes more than one mark on it, selects multiple parties, has markings outside the options and ultimately does not select one clear choice on their ballot. When a voter spoils their ballot papers, they miss the opportunity to make their mark and be counted. 
Citizens have the right to request a new ballot paper if they have made a mistake. 

The   ballot paper with the mistake is then marked as "cancelled". However, once your ballot is placed in the ballot box, it cannot be removed. 
These elections are historic for a number of reasons; one of them being that independent candidates are allowed to contest the elections and citizens will therefore receive three ballot papers. The first will be the National Ballot, to elect a political party for representation in National Assembly. 

The second ballot is the new regional ballot that allows citizens to vote for political parties or candidates within the region (province) for elections to the National Assembly. The third ballot is the provincial ballot for citizens to vote for political parties or independent candidates for provincial legislature. 

Voters are advised to vote where they are registered, however exceptions apply for citizens to vote outside their registered district if they are unable to vote at the station they are registered at on the day of elections, provided they have notified the IEC. 

Citizens can apply for these special votes by visiting their local IEC office, sending a SMS of their ID number to 32249, or through the IEC website, and applications for this are opened from 15 April to 3 May 2024.
We have only one chance to vote for each election and elect representatives responsible to lead our nation forward. Let’s use our vote wisely and make it count.

 Nomonde Mnukwa is Acting Director General of GCIS