South Africa


South Africa’s electoral reform – a missed opportunity (Episode 1)

South Africa’s electoral reform – a missed opportunity (Episode 1)
Dr Sithembile Mbete during the launch of Hennie van Vuuren’s book, 'Apartheid, Guns and Money: A tale of profit', in Pretoria on 15 May 2017. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

With just more than a year until the 2024 national elections, South Africa’s new Electoral Amendment Act has finally been signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa. But within days of his assent there is already a group of civil society organisations that plan to challenge the changes in the Constitutional Court.

In this episode, Dr Sithembile Mbete of Pretoria University talks to Professor Lawrence Hamilton about the country’s recent journey into electoral reform. She explains how the ministerial advisory committee went about trying to choose a new electoral system, and why it’s still problematic.

Mbete unpacks why the electoral system that was used in 1994 needed to be changed. And she talks about democratic sustenance and why young South Africans are too disenfranchised to vote. According to Mbete, the decline in voter turnout in 2019 and 2021 was driven by a decline in turnout within the 18- to 29-year-old demographic of eligible voters. 

And that ultimately spells trouble for the 2024 elections. DM

Professor Lawrence Hamilton is a political theorist and the SA-UK Bilateral Research Chair in Political Theory at the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cambridge in the UK. He contributes to rethinking political theory from the perspective of the Global South. His research interests include topics in contemporary political theory such as states, power, representation, freedom, needs, rights, resistance, democracy, markets, development and political judgement.


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