South Africa

2021 LOCAL ELECTIONS

Do you know your ward candidates? We doubt it. So here’s a guide to help

Do you know your ward candidates? We doubt it. So here’s a guide to help
Illustrative image: South Africans queue to vote in the early morning light at a church in the poor slum of Alexandra Township for the local elections. Photo: EPA/KIM LUDBROOK,South african I Flag. Photo: Jaco Marais

As useful as election posters are, when it comes to local government elections they usually lack the one thing that matters most – the ward candidates. This can leave many eligible voters scratching their heads about who to put their “X” next to. To quell some of the confusion, we’ve compiled a few pointers on how to find your ward candidates.

Social media isn’t usually the place where you’ll find poignant social commentary, but earlier this month, political analyst Eusebius McKaiser shared a post on Instagram that summed up the confusion many of us have about local government elections.  

Somewhere in Johannesburg, the ANC had erected a poster of Cyril Ramaphosa with the header “Ramaphosa for President” and the date for this year’s municipal election. McKaiser had captioned the image “Did you know? 1 November South Africa will be hosting presidential elections.”  

While this might have been an honest error on the ANC’s part, it points to the fact that many eligible voters are unaware of the difference between general and municipal elections, and subsequently might be ignorant of the councillor candidates contesting local government elections in their ward.  

During the launch of a municipal election manual compiled by the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape, director of the institute, Jaap de Visser, expressed the hope that local government elections would not be “national elections hidden in a local jacket”. According to De Visser, voters should look beyond political ideologies and ascertain whether individual councillors delivered on promises, met service delivery demands and didn’t steal from the public purse.

As campaigning reaches fever pitch, the prevalence of election posters has surged. While election posters have landed some parties – including the DA – in hot water, they are also one of the primary means whereby candidates can make themselves known to the electorate. However, they are often dominated by party leaders and other notable figureheads.  

In Pietermaritzburg, for example, this writer was struck by the dearth of councillor candidates’ faces on ANC election posters. The ANC did not respond to DM168’s queries regarding the matter. Meanwhile, conjecture points to fears of politically motivated killings, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said ward candidates throughout the country were given “no less than 200 posters each” and each candidate was responsible for erecting their own posters.

The IFP was also embroiled in a “poster scandal” when the image of newly crowned Zulu king, Misuzulu kaZwelithini, was used for political purposes in a social media campaign. The party retracted the poster, saying the king’s photo was used “erroneously”. Meanwhile, IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa has notably not appeared on the party’s campaign materials. Instead, party founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been the face.

Finding your councillor candidates

If posters have let you down, there are other ways to find the candidates who are contesting your ward. If you’re curious about who your current ward councillor is, head to the IEC website at www.elections.org.za and click on the “Voters” tab. Under the heading “Voting” you will find a link titled “Who is my ward councillor?” You can either enter your ID number in the box provided, which will pull up your voter registration information – which includes the name of your ward councillor – or you can click on the “search now” button to locate any ward councillor in the country.

Alternatively, you can SMS “My ward councillor” to 32245.

To find out who’s contesting your ward, visit the My Candidate Portal (mycandidate.opencitieslab.org). The platform lets you find your ward by entering your street address. It then pulls up the list of candidates for your specific ward, shows you which other wards the candidate is contesting, and allows you to conduct a Google search on the candidate. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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