Political system, parties have failed SA — bottom-up…

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South Africans like me are increasingly disillusioned with political parties and the current political systems that govern them. Time and again, ordinary South Africans have attempted to send strong messages lamenting crime and reduced security, poor service delivery, endemic corruption that has bled public coffers and poor quality of life – which n have ceased to fall on deaf ears as the rigidity and unresponsiveness of the current political system persists.

Dissatisfaction with the status quo has led many to take to the streets in protest, as political systems designed to serve, protect and uplift them consistently fail. Besides protest, one of the most telling ways in which South Africans have shown a progressive rejection of the current political system and political parties is through the ballot box.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), out of more than 40 million eligible voters in South Africa, a total of 26.2 million South Africans had registered before last year’s local elections (LGE). . This means that more than 13 million eligible South Africans had not registered to vote, representing around a third of the eligible voter population – this is very concerning as more and more people are turning their backs on politics traditional and political establishment and are discouraged. , while first-time voters see no value in engaging politically in electoral politics.

In a 2020 article by Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, The South African Abstainer: An Analysis, she found that “On May 8, 2019, South Africans cast their ballots in their sixth democratic national and provincial elections. A record 26.7 million eligible South Africans have registered to vote in the elections. The registered population represented 74.6% of the total voting age population of over 35.8 million. More than 17.6 million voters participated on polling day. Yet voter turnout has declined quite dramatically, accelerating the steady decline in voter turnout in previous democratic elections in South Africa.

Schulz-Herzenberg also noted that “the 8% drop in turnout among registered voters from 73% in 2014 to 66% in the 2019 election was the steepest since the 2004 election. This means that, for the first time since the landmark democratic elections of 1994, less than half (49%) of all eligible South Africans cast their ballots in 2019. South Africa’s turnout levels are now on par with other countries in low participation rate in terms of its eligible participation.

In a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, it was found that most South Africans (two-thirds) were dissatisfied with the state of their democracy, which contrasts with the 67% who were satisfied in 2013 .

This decline and the general sentiments are not only an indictment of the ANC as the ruling party, but of all political parties that are currently players in the existing political system. All have failed to respond decisively to the issues facing all South Africans and to bring us all together, instead of sowing division for short-sighted political gain.

The current political system and existing political parties are not geared towards making South Africa the fair and just country it should be – they are simply not able to foster collaboration and innovation and s organize to make a difference. He (and they) are failing to address its socio-economic issues and enable South Africans to move forward and access opportunities.

I believe communities have been at the forefront of finding solutions to the many problems they face, led by the most innovative and determined change-makers among them – they already have the answers to some of South Africa’s burning socio-economic issues. If community leaders who are proven to uplift their communities and bring about lasting change are brought into politics and are empowered to do what communities need, then perhaps citizens would be more engaged in the political process.

Currently, political parties are not invested in empowering community leaders, which is why we all need to think about how to change the way our system of democratic participation works. As it stands, the law states that an entity must be registered to participate in elections. However, the law is less prescriptive as to how this entity chooses to organize and convene communities.

When political parties were banned during apartheid, there was still mobilization and organization at the community level. The key to a changing political discourse will be to return to this culture and build. DM


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