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ROAD TO 2024 ELECTIONS

‘Your democracy, own it’ — IEC launches campaign for next year’s poll

‘Your democracy, own it’ — IEC launches campaign for next year’s poll
(Photo: Fani Mahuntsi / Gallo Images)

The Electoral Commission has launched its 2024 national and provincial election campaign and has called on voters to register under the theme ‘Your democracy, own it.’

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) says it is all systems go for next year’s general elections — the seventh in democratic South Africa — which are being touted as a watershed moment in the country’s history.

The declaration of readiness comes even though the IEC is embroiled in two legal challenges, both at the Constitutional Court, whose outcomes could have an adverse impact on the timeline of the elections.

IEC chairperson Mosotho Moepya said, “We all need to exercise patience to allow the judicial authorities the time they need to apply themselves on the matters that have either been referred or may have to be referred to them for determination.”

On Tuesday, the IEC launched its election programme at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Gauteng, under the theme “Your democracy, own it”.

The campaign, which aims to encourage young and first-time voters to participate in the electoral process, was launched ahead of the registration weekend of 18-19 November.

For the first time in South Africa, independent candidates will be allowed to contest individually. This was made possible by the Electoral Amendment Act that became law in June and is being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Three ballot papers will be a first for South Africa during 2024 general elections

“Today, we stand proud as the pre-eminent constitutionally mandated body that manages elections and make [a bold statement] that we are ready for the NPE [National and Provincial Elections] 2024,” said the commission’s CEO, Sy Mamabolo.

“An election is possible between May and the middle of August 2024. The proclamation of the election date is by our head of state, His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa, after consultation with the Electoral Commission. Our expectation is that the provincial elections will be, as they have for the past 30 years, synchronised with the national election,” said Mamabolo.   

The term of office of the current legislatures, national and provincial, is expected to come to an end in mid-May and according to the Constitution, an election must be held within 90 days of the expiry of the legislatures’ terms.

However, the national and provincial governments will remain in office until the newly elected public representatives take office, Mamabolo said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: IEC raises concerns over impact independent candidate ConCourt cases could have on poll timelines

The 2021 local government elections saw a 10 percentage point drop in voter turnout — from 57.94% in 2016 to 47.43% in 2021 — that signalled continued plummeting trust in public elected institutions and electoral democracy.

The IEC is confident of its ability to host millions of eligible voters at more than 23,296 voting stations across the country. At the moment, there are 26.2 million people on the voters’ roll. Young people between the ages of 20 and 29 account for 3.7 million, while voters in the 30-39 age group have the highest representation — 6.6 million.

The campaign features a newly designed logo and a TV advert with young South Africans from different walks of life speaking about the fruits of democracy. It will be broadcast on national TV, radio stations and various digital platforms.

Thumbs-up from parties

Several political parties that attended the launch welcomed the campaign.

IFP leader Velenkosini Hlabisa said, “The slogan [Your democracy, own it] is quite appropriate and we believe that every South African should stand up; this is our democracy, we need to own and protect it.

“Elections in 2024 must be a turning point, a watershed moment in our country. As we did in 1994 to remove the apartheid government, we must do it again next year to remove the government that has failed us.”

EFF secretary-general Marshall Dlamini voiced similar sentiments, adding that it was critical for Ramaphosa to announce the polling day soon. “The sooner we get the date, the better. We are ready for the elections.”

DA leader John Steenhuisen welcomed the campaign and said, “We have united as political parties, it is now up to the electorate to unite behind the Multi-Party Charter that can get over the finish line. There is a credible path to victory now that can unseat the ANC and usher in a new government.”

The ANC’s elections manager, Mdumiseni Ntuli, said that despite increased unhappiness and a lack of trust from the electorate, and polls that put the ANC’s support below 50%, the ruling party would retain its majority.

“We are certain that as we approach the elections next year, the support for the ANC will be reaffirmed because nobody in this country except the ANC has acquired the necessary experience, knowledge and skills to govern, despite the fact that there have been many challenges that we have dealt with and are dealing with right now.”

The Freedom Front Plus leader, Pieter Gronewald, said, “We must strengthen our democracy. We must remember that democracy is only as strong as the number of people who vote when there is an election.”

The leader of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), Gayton McKenzie, said, “I think they have done a really great job, it is very rare that we praise the IEC.”

Commenting on the young people not voting, McKenzie said, “The problem is not young people not voting in this country, it is the absence of hope. We need to bring back hope… They don’t vote because nobody talks about jobs, opportunities. We as the PA, we are going to make it a point to bring people out and show them the prospects of giving them jobs.”

The African Transformation Movement leader, Vuyo Zungula, said, “The launch did not address the critical issues: firstly, the lower voter turnout of which we would have hoped that the IEC would embark on voter education programmes to increase the knowledge of people so that they can vote; ANC-aligned teachers who are always presiding officers; [and the] issue of the illegalities that occur at all the voting stations.”

The IEC has developed several tools and resources for eligible voters to make use of, including a WhatsApp chatbot, which allows voters to interact and get assistance with election-related issues and links them to the registration website. 

“Almost everyone that we have come across has expressed … a view that the [2024 national and provincial elections] will be a complex undertaking. We do not hold a different view,” Moepya said. 

“From now henceforth, the commission will continue to strengthen civic and voter education initiatives to ensure that voters are fully informed about their roles and responsibilities in the NPE 2024. This is critical because an informed electorate is the bedrock of any thriving democracy.”  DM

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