Political analysts warn of protests and low voter turnout

Protesters at a recent service delivery protest. I BOXER NGWENYA

Protesters at a recent service delivery protest. I BOXER NGWENYA

Published May 26, 2024


With the 2024 general elections fast approaching and service delivery protests rising, independent political analysts have warned about potential lower voter turnout on May 29.

This follows a series of protests in at least three provinces – Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga – in the past month.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, independent political analyst Yolokazi Mfuto said that if a community leader decided not to vote in an election because of service delivery issues, it could encourage community members to follow suit.

“Equally, if a protest was held before an election, promises were made and not delivered, many people could be disillusioned and refuse to participate in voting,” added Mfuto.

She said it was important for people to take part in the elections and “stop voting for people who hand out food parcels or T-shirts, but are known to be bad leaders”.

People should not fall prey to campaigns during which parties come to make promises, dance and sing with them, and then assume that those were good leaders.

Mfuto said this year’s election needed a lot of voter education.

“The three ballots may be a bit confusing. Community members need to pay attention on the day. But, fundamentally, communities must ensure that they are not gullible.”

“In South Africa, we have seen that a large chunk of the population that is eligible to vote has opted out of voting. However, with this year’s election and voter registration numbers, there is hope that the majority of the population will vote.”

On why it was important for people to continue voting, Mfuto said people who lived in townships, rural areas and the outskirts of cities were mostly poor, lived in dire conditions and needed change.

She also stressed the importance of guarding democracy through voter participation.

“Those are people who value elections, political participation and representation. You will see them in protests, in queues for by-elections, and in IDP meetings with the municipality. One common thing that they all want is change in their communities.

“People need to vote because it is a democratic process. Democracy needs participation to develop and progress. Second, it is important to safeguard democracy because voting gives the government legitimacy.

“If the majority of the people do not participate in voting, the legitimacy of the incumbent government will be questioned, because it was not necessarily voted in by a majority of the population but a majority of those who voted.”

Mfuto said a daunting issue was the constant threats of violence that some party leaders were promising if things did not go their way.

On the outcome on the election, she said: “When it comes to results, I do think that the ruling party may still win with a slight majority and the DA might lose its spot (official opposition) to the EFF. The upcoming and small parties might win one or two seats in some legislatures, and maybe one in Parliament.

“This is mainly because these big political parties still maintain a very high level of hegemony,” said Mfuto.

Independent political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe raised his concern that the “so-called constitutional democracy is a farce”.

He said South African democracy had metamorphosed into the will of the judiciary. It was no longer the will of the people.

“Parliament, which represents the will of the people, is second-guessed all the time, to such an extent that it has become a place of political containment of African views and aspirations.

“What we need is the revisitation of the democratic framework. We are approaching a scenario where South Africa is becoming ungovernable because of government failure,” said Seepe.

He commended South Africans and said “they are waking to that reality. Hopefully, they will turn up in numbers to vote wisely”.

In spite of the elections and the government’s recently hyped programmes, protests continued.

In Noordgesig, community members protested about a prolonged power outage that had started earlier in April.

The protest spread to other areas and by late April, about 100 residents were using tree trunks and burning tyres to blockade almost all roads, affecting access to Orlando East, Pennyville, and Noordgesig.

Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Xolani Fihla said passing vehicles had been stoned.

Reports indicated that a protest erupted after thousands of households were left without power due to illegal connections overloading the network.

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