Many South Africans are excited about making their mark on November 1 in the local government elections, says the writer. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
Many South Africans are excited about making their mark on November 1 in the local government elections, says the writer. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)

Voting… a moral issue?

By Time of article published Oct 23, 2021

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Zelna Jansen

Many South Africans are excited about making their mark on November 1 in the local government elections.

Ensuring that their mark will put their chosen candidate or political party in the municipal council to promote their interests and views on how local government should best be run.

However, there are also many citizens that are disillusioned by the politics of the day and intend to refrain from casting their vote on November 1.

They feel disappointed by promises and undertakings that have not been fulfilled.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that many citizens even though they want to, do not know how to participate in governing decisions affecting them nor do they know how to hold politicians accountable.

This lack of knowledge and other factors has fuelled their hopelessness of impacting governing decisions affecting them and will very likely be addressed through a form of protesting or boycotting the elections.

In doing so, foregoing their responsibilities as citizens.

Why is it so important to cast your vote?

South Africa is a democracy, and a democracy is about getting citizens to participate in voting and governance matters.

It is therefore a citizen’s responsibility to participate in the elections.

Another reason is that once a citizen votes for a particular independent or party, a form of social contract is created between the citizen and the politician or political party.

The politician must do what it had undertaken to do in its elections campaign manifesto and the citizen must ensure that the politician does what he or she has undertaken to do.

There are therefore obligations and responsibilities for both the independents or political parties and citizens.

For a democracy to work, citizens must also make informed decisions about who they vote for.

It is not a decision that should be taken lightly as the voter will need to keep the elected representative accountable.

Not doing this will lead to amongst others, corruption, mismanagement of funds and fraud.

For example, the Auditor-General of South Africa, an institution established by the Constitution to support South Africa’s constitutional democracy, annually produces audit reports on all government departments, public entities, municipalities, and public institutions.

In terms of the AG’s Citizen Report for 2018/19, on local government, it completed 229 audits and found that the financial health of 79% of municipalities are concerning or in need of urgent intervention.

Some of the findings included: 141 municipalities awarded contracts worth R1.2 billion to officials of other state institutions; 77 municipalities awarded contracts worth R474 million to close family members of employees and 40 municipalities awarded contracts worth R30m to employees and councillors.

The AG further warns that, “poor financial management translates into poor municipal service delivery”.

According to the Revised Paper on Families in South Africa released by the Department of Social Development (March 2021), it is stated that although major gains have been made in improving multi-dimensional poverty, poverty has in fact worsened since 2015.

This is mainly due to income poverty which remains a major challenge.

The national lockdown due to Covid19 has further worsened South Africa’s already fragile economy.

The poor is therefore becoming poorer, while the wealthy thrives, and inequality continues to deepen.

Entrenching pre-exiting divisions and hampering social cohesion.

Let us not forget the protests, rioting and looting that took place in July this year in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

South Africa finds itself at a turning point.

Citizens and politicians must now decide whether they want to remain on this course or turn the tide?

The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) has called for a moral renewal of politics.

Politicians and the public officials they oversee must no longer consider their own selfish needs.

It must be a calling to serve the people of the South Africa.

Candidates must therefore have a passion to serve and improve the lives of South Africans.

Politicians must also possess qualities and characteristics that want to engage people and obtain buy-in from his or her residents in the community.

The councillor must remember that local government is about bringing government to grassroots and involving citizens in governing matters in the ward.

Citizens should not settle for anything less.

Citizens on the other hand must be serious about their responsibilities to vote and participate in governing decisions affecting their communities.

Firstly they must conduct some research on who the potential candidates are?

This could take a simple method of speaking to neighbours and residents in their communities.

Who are these candidates, what are their vision for the community?

Do they have a history of corruption?

They must meditate on and consider the choices as to who will be best suited to bring forth change in their communities.

The SACBC has written to their congregants requesting them to consider where South Africa finds itself, in terms of poverty, unemployment, corruption, and others and make an informed decision about voting.

It is no longer just about making a mark or ticking the ballot paper.

It is now a moral obligation of committing an act of what one believes to be right and good.

I agree and encourage other churches and religious organisations do the same.

* Zelna Jansen is a lawyer. She is CEO of Zelna Jansen Consultancy.

**The views expressed here may not be that of IOL.

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