Elections 2024 offers chance to reboot our faulty democracy

Voters queue for elections in this 1999 file photo. The writer says scores of citizens cited having not voted due to a strong dissatisfaction with the political state of the country, and the lack of acceptable options among the parties to vote for.

Voters queue for elections in this 1999 file photo. The writer says scores of citizens cited having not voted due to a strong dissatisfaction with the political state of the country, and the lack of acceptable options among the parties to vote for.

Published Jun 25, 2023


By Tswelopele Makoe

ON Youth Day this past week, ActionSA launched a voter registration campaign at Thokoza Park, Soweto, in anticipation of the upcoming 2024 elections. They were able to register hundreds of new voters, emphasising the need to honour the legacy of the fallen students of the 1976 uprisings, and more so, to use the upcoming elections as an opportunity to put South Africa back on a path of prosperity.

The term “uncertainty” seems to be the key sentiment of modern-day South Africa citizens. The upcoming 2024 elections have prompted citizens to deeply analyse the state of the nation. This initiative by ActionSA is especially pertinent due to the rapid drop in the youth demographic voting rate during the last elections.

Scores of citizens cited having not voted due to a strong dissatisfaction with the political state of the country, and the lack of acceptable options among the parties to vote for.

This dissatisfaction with the state of the nation and the effectiveness of democracy was starkly highlighted by the recent survey by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), which showed a tremendous decline in the overall levels of satisfaction and outlook of our democracy.

In the recent years, our nation has been riddled by an array of various challenges. From institutional instability and power outages to deepening inequities in our society. South Africa is essentially crippled by societal issues.

Additionally, these challenges largely eclipse the rate of development and progression in the nation. The cost of living is higher than ever, crime and poverty continues to proliferate, and scores of graduates remain jobless and disheartened.

With the imminent 2024 elections, we need to critically analyse the state of the nation and consider the future that we would like to actualise, in accordance with the collective vision of our nation’s future.

It is clear that the current system of the nation is archaic and ineffective. We notably have the strongest constitution in the world, but the most unequal society in the world. This inequity is not merely economic; it directly impacts access, liveability, and personal development, especially amongst underprivileged people.

What is clear is that our societal challenges are intersectional. We cannot properly address crime whilst dismissing the lack of job opportunities in our society. We cannot address issues of access, especially to educational institutions, without addressing the economic challenges faced by various households. We have a plethora of problems in our society, and they cannot be addressed in isolation, they are all interrelated.

Politically, our nation has no accountability and poor implementation of policy and implementation has become our stock in trade. Corruption runs rife in our political institutions, and as such, we are riddled with questionable, ineffective leadership.

Environmentally, we are struggling. We are still dangerously dependent on non-renewable forms of power, such as coal and oil. Our infrastructure is dilapidated, and renewable energy innovations remain all talk, and no action.

Furthermore, we have an abundance of resources with which to implement clean, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro power, but the implementation of these power sources largely remains disregarded, particularly by the current government.

Socio-economically, the cost of living continues to escalate, evident as the poor get poorer. Violence of all forms is continuously perpetuated and racial tensions are still heightened, amongst many other challenges. This situation is not eased by the high rate of joblessness and insecurity, forcing many out of educational institutions, and often leaving many to turn to crime and corruption.

Additionally, access to healthcare, adequate housing, quality education, food insecurity, structural and social conflicts, and a lack of inclusion only worsen the challenges that are faced by our citizens daily.

What needs to be underscored here is the connection between our unequal society, and our imperilment as a nation. Although we have forms of advancement, progression is still minute.

As a nation, we need to begin thinking about, and enacting, the steps that will better our future, foster inclusion, and accessibility, and ultimately promote the betterment of our entire society.

We need to stop looking at short-term satisfaction, and think about long term, widely effective goals. We need to promote new innovations and foster opportunities. We need to consolidate our structures and systems, so that they work to our advantage and betterment, in accordance with our unique societal needs.

Our nation is alarmingly delayed in development, which is crucial in our rapidly globalised and technological global arena. We do not have our own structures, systems, or curriculum. We are dangerously dependent on the rest of the world for absolutely all our needs, and as a result, our nation will remain a sinking ship.

We need to develop and educate our people, we need to plan for our communities, and we need to empower our citizens so that they can effectively develop our society. Without this, we will remain defenceless, at the mercy of the rest of the unscrupulous world.

As 2024 draws nearer, we need to remember that the sacrifices made by the youth of 1976 were not merely for better educational opportunities, they were also for the legitimate opportunity to develop themselves, their families and communities, and their country. They were fighting for inclusivity, opportunities, and the chance to meaningfully contribute to an ideally thriving society.

Organisations such as Rise Mzansi have underscored the ineffectiveness of our governing structures, politicians, and structural conditions, as incapable of addressing the unique needs of our nation. South Africa is amid a dynamic and rapidly changing global environment, and we need to be equipped to grapple with this, despite our various drawbacks.

We need to prepare for the changes that are happening in the world and ensure that we are equipped to tackle them with ease. Technological developments such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the consolidation of transportation, our climate crisis which affects food security, national health rates and employment will have a ripple effect across the nation.

We need to be proactive in our grappling with our nation’s unique needs and our ever-changing society. We need to emphasise strong international and multilateral relationships, especially within the African continent. If we do not effectively move to empower ourselves, especially as a collective, we will fall vulnerable to attacks by power-hungry entities and nations with their own selfish objectives.

If we do not make wise and meaningful advancements today, we will undoubtedly pay for it tomorrow. Our mountain of challenges will unmistakably worsen, weakening our citizens’ security and negatively affect our nation’s lived realities.

We cannot remain in a place where we are unable to deal with old or unfamiliar problems, where our society actively works against us, and where our societal crises worsen by the day. We need to vote in order to enact meaningful change. This is, as a citizen, the ultimate way of making our voice heard, for enacting the widespread change that we want to see.

It is not just the youth, but many adults that are highly dissatisfied and somewhat apolitical at this point. I urge them to impart the meaningful change that they want to see by voting in the 2024 elections, and by electing public representatives worthy of leading our great nation.

Although I sympathise with those that are so gravely disheartened by our nation’s shortcomings, especially where politics are concerned, it is pertinent that we come together to create change, transformation, and a better South Africa. According to political analyst Tessa Dooms, the last election won by the ANC received 10 million votes, and there are 14 million unregistered people in South Africa.

If those 14 million people choose to vote in 2024, they could very well put a government of their choice in power. Only we, as the citizens, can enact change, can foster cooperation, and can actualise an ideal future, through the simple act of voting.

There will be multiple generations of current and future South Africans that will ensure that we compete with the developed world, that we advance in meaningful ways, that we hold our rulers accountable, and that we protect our stability over everything.

Although our social problems are more heightened than ever, the reality is that we will not be in this dire state forever, but it is essential that we take the first step towards change, towards actualising the South Africa that we deserve.

  • Tswelopele Makoe is a Gender Activist and an MA Ethics Student at UWC, affiliated with the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. The views expressed are her own.