431 07.05.2014 An inside of the voting station at Gauteng city hall in Johannesburg CBD on Election Day. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng Cell: 078 490 5044

On Wednesday 14 million or more South Africans will cast their votes at 22 612 polling stations countrywide in the local government elections, electing some of the 63 654 candidates from 204 political parties to 257 municipal councils.

The Independent Electoral Commission says it has recruited and trained 177 000 personnel (54 000 in KwaZulu-Natal) to ensure things go off smoothly. It is a mammoth logistical exercise involving more than 74 million ballot papers nationally.

Police will deploy officers in their tens of thousands on Wednesday, at polling stations and on stand-by at hot spots in case of trouble.

But we trust they will not be necessary, that it will be an orderly voting day like the others of the last 22 years: peaceful, patient queues where people can safely express themselves; and able, efficient officials at the stations, courteously shepherding voters – and accomplishing accurate reflections of citizens' wishes.

Who to vote for? The candidate or party best able to match promises with deeds. There has been talk aplenty about qualities of self and failures of rivals, laced with enticing pledges. It has been a standard contest, albeit light on bread and butter issues and problems particular to specific areas.

Efforts at persuasion have included the usual slogans and catchy phrases, bunting and bright regalia, accusations and retorts, political leaders trying to position each other.

That is just talk, however. The essential test is merit, measurable delivery. Are those promises realistic? Has your councillor delivered? Has the party?

Voting is a hard won right in South Africa. But with our history, it should also be regarded as a duty. It is a direct, meaningful way of expressing content and trust, or the opposite.

Arguments that votes will make no difference, that no-one has earned a vote, or that one candidate/party has disappointed but there are no viable alternatives, defeat democratic purpose.

Abstentions tend to be indecisive, open to interpretation rather than an emphatic expression of fact. They may or may not mean disapproval.

Voters need to let their public representatives know that they serve at their pleasure, that voters have the power of correction. Abstaining is no way to do this.