Come 1st of November 2021, South Africa will be headed to the polls to elect local leaders. Early indications from the Independent Electoral Commission are that by the time voter registration closes and final candidate lists are submitted, a record number of independent candidates of about 1 000 will take part, up from 855 in 2016.
In most instances, these would be members of community and social movements that traditionally would have been aligned to broader Mass Democratic Movements like the ANC. The increase in their numbers suggests that alternative options to party-sponsored candidates are being explored.
General voter apathy towards local government elections will not be a new phenomenon. The turnout for the previous polls in 2006 (48.40%); 2011 (57.64%) and 2016 (57.94%) would suggest that South Africans are not particularly enthusiastic about their critical responsibility to have a say about who runs the affairs of their locality. National elections are taken slightly more seriously, as evidenced by 2009 (77.30%); 2014 (73.48%) and 2019 (66.05%).
All political organizations are pulling all stops to gain voters’ affection. We have seen such scenes as the one in the picture showing right now. Politicians are pulling all stop just so they can get votes. These days, though communities are much wiser.
They receive all these offers and then proceed to vote their own way. While the older generation wallows in disappointment about the failures of the ANC to run the municipalities properly, the younger cohort has no particular sentimental affinity to the liberation movement.
It only sees the pot holes, uncollected refuse and untrimmed hedges for what they truly represent: the incapacity of their councilors to perform. They are open to persuasion to vote “correctly” not only in these elections, but in many more to come in order to choose men and women who will make a difference to the picture painted in the Auditor-General’s reports about the state of the country’s local governance.
That is, if they even bother to vote on November 1st. One major issue not to forget in this election is the religious persecution that South Africans have witnessed since last year. We have scenes of the church being harassed all in the name of enforcing lockdown regulations.