Nelson Mandela Foundation

As we head into the month of May characterised by change and choice, we are at a significant point in our nation’s history. We can decide who gets to govern and it is crucial that we use the time leading up to these elections to educate ourselves and understand what is at stake. These elections will determine the new National Assembly and the provincial legislature in each of the 9 provinces. Year after year, voter turnout has decreased and there has been growing discontentment.

Why should you vote?

If you are over the age of 18, you have the social responsibility to choose your government. It is a way to express your dissatisfaction with how things currently are. It is also a way to hold our leaders accountable, assess their manifestos and promises made and see how far they are in achieving these goals.

It is an opportunity to make sure that your voice is heard, and human rights are protected – basic human rights such as to life, quality education – it is an opportunity for you to vote leaders into power you view as capable and whose vision aligns with what you value. It is a way to assert your right to be heard on issues you deem important, like education, healthcare, unemployment.

It is an opportunity to break the stereotypical notion that we young people simply do not care. By showing up to the polls, it is an opportunity to send a powerful message that as a young person, you are responsible and informed. It shows that you are prepared for part of the solution.

What do you need to know?

There are three main election types namely the national elections, provincial elections and municipal elections. National elections involve the selection of representatives for the National Assembly. On the ballot, you can vote for a political party or an independent candidate. For the provincial elections, you will have the chance to select representatives for the legislature. On the ballot, you will still have the opportunity to vote for the independent candidate or party to represent what you deem important. Both elections take place every five years, and this year, for the first time in our nation’s history, you can vote for independent candidates not associated with new or existing political parties. With municipal elections, you are given the opportunity to vote for political parties and representatives to serve in the municipal council.

Next steps?

The next steps include educating and interrogating what these different political parties and independent candidates stand for, and what key policies they are pushing forward. This allows you to make an informed decision that aligns with what you envision for this country. There are various platforms that one can access for this information, for example, the Apolitical Nation page, the IEC website, the political parties’ different social media platforms, and news outlets. This allows you to make informed decisions and enables you to hold the public servants accountable based on these manifestos.