Defend Truth

TUESDAY GUEST EDITORIAL

Voter registration weekend — eight good reasons to register to vote

Voter registration weekend — eight good reasons to register to vote
Illustrative image | (Photos: Lihlumelo Toyana | Supplied | Alet Pretorius)

As the Electoral Commission of South Africa gears up for voter registration weekend, it is imperative to emphasise the pivotal role of registering to vote, and more critically, using the act of registering as the starting point on a journey towards the robust and sustained civic action and participation needed from all citizens, in order to protect and preserve our democracy.

The work starts NOW, but continues after the 2024 general elections. Here are eight reasons that I encourage you to register: 

1 Voting is not merely a civic duty; it is the cornerstone of a vibrant and participatory democracy 

The importance of this seemingly simple act can never be overstated, both here in South Africa and abroad. In South Africa, a nation that has undergone significant political transformations over our three decades of democracy, the act of voting, by deliberate design, holds immense power in shaping the future. 

At the heart of any democracy lies the principle of representation. The power to choose leaders and influence policies through the ballot box is the foundation upon which a government derives its legitimacy.

2 Voter registration is the initial step that enables individuals to take part in this foundational democratic process

By registering, citizens assert their right to have a voice in the decisions that shape their communities, provinces and the nation as a whole. 

3 Voter registration is a means of ensuring that the diversity of South Africa’s population is accurately reflected in the political landscape

A democracy thrives when it is inclusive and representative of the myriad perspectives within society. Registering to vote allows citizens from all walks of life – regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or age – to actively contribute to the multitude of voices that influence the nation’s trajectory. This is a good thing, and something that we should all passionately advocate for in our collective quest to nurture a healthy and thriving democracy. 

We have found that the low levels of civic education in this country are indiscriminate and affect all South Africans in relatively equal measure.

South Africa’s journey to democracy was arduous, marked by protracted struggle and unimaginable sacrifice. The right to vote was not freely granted; it was a hard-won freedom. Recognising this historical context adds weight to the importance of participating in the democratic process, a significance that is not lost on South Africans today. 

Voter registration

South Africans queue to vote in Manguang on 7 May 2014. (Photo: Gallo Images / Conrad Bornman)

4 Every vote counts, and by registering to vote, individuals contribute to the creation of a government that genuinely reflects the will of the people it purports to govern 

Effective and legitimate representation hinges on a broad and engaged electorate. The more people who register to vote, the more accurate and inclusive the representation becomes, fostering a government that is responsive to the diverse needs and concerns of its citizenry.

5 The policies implemented by elected officials have a direct impact on the social and economic fabric of a nation. By registering to vote and empowering yourself with crucial civic education, citizens actively engage in shaping the trajectory of their country.

At the Ground Work Collective, under our Civic Education and Participation pillar and our successful #X_Change voter registration and civic education campaign, we know that in a healthy democracy the act of voting must not exist in isolation, but that it is one of many tools available to all South Africans to create the active and civically minded citizenry that is essential in holding elected officials and public servants accountable at all times – not just at the ballot box. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Democratic participation may make or break SA in 2024 elections 

To achieve the necessary levels of active citizenry, we believe that all South Africans should have access to, and be able to empower themselves with, civic education materials that teach them all they need to know about how their government works, so that they can make government work for them and their communities. 

We have found that the low levels of civic education in this country are indiscriminate and affect all South Africans in relatively equal measure. Most South Africans do not know how their government is formed, what ward committees are, the roles they can play in budget allocation processes at all levels of government, what Chapter 9 institutions are and their significance as democratic institutions… the list goes on. 

Our democracy and nation endure not through some stroke of luck, but through our actions as citizens, actions we must take every day to uphold the principles of democracy.

Elevating our collective levels of civic education is what is sorely needed for us to be effective and active participants in our democracy, moving ourselves away from the passivity that maintains the status quo. This participation is particularly crucial in South Africa, where the challenges of unemployment, inequality and access to education persist. Voter registration empowers individuals to influence the policies and decisions that will address these challenges and contribute to the nation’s progress. 

Voter registration is a means of ensuring that the diversity of South Africa’s population is accurately reflected in the political landscape. (Photo: Gallo Images / Misha Jordaan)

6 Vigilant citizenship: Democracy is not a static concept; it requires active participation and vigilant citizenship. Voter registration is a key component of this participation

A robust and inclusive voter registration process strengthens democratic institutions by fostering a sense of accountability among political leaders. When citizens actively engage in the democratic process, they demand transparency, accountability and ethical governance, thereby fortifying the very foundations of democracy.

7 Voter registration is not only about the individual act of casting a vote, but also about ensuring the integrity of the entire electoral process

A comprehensive and accurate voter registry is fundamental to conducting free and fair elections. By registering, citizens contribute to the creation of a reliable voter database, which is essential for preventing fraud and maintaining the credibility of the electoral system.

8 Registering to vote and showing up on election day are among the many ways we affirm our commitment to a democratic dispensation

Democracy, particularly a representative and participatory democracy like ours, doesn’t just happen – it is hard fought for and was forged in the literal flames of apartheid that saw the birth of a nation against all odds. A nation that many thought would not succeed. Our democracy and nation endure not through some stroke of luck, but through our actions as citizens, actions we must take every day to uphold the principles of democracy. Registering to vote and showing up on election day are among the many ways we affirm our commitment to a democratic dispensation that we know can be fleeting, if not protected and preserved for generations to come. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Civil society gears up for SA’s 2024 elections: Vote. Participate. Activate

So, as voter registration weekend approaches, we must, if we aren’t already registered, flood our polling stations with our IDs in hand (and encourage anyone we know who isn’t registered to do the same), to ensure that our voice is not left out when the millions of South African voices are heard at next year’s watershed elections. DM

This weekend is the last voter registration weekend for the 2024 general elections. According to the IEC there will be 22,300 voting stations open countrywide, from 8am to 5pm. It is estimated that up to 13 millions South Africans are not registered, most of them young people. Make sure you are not one of them! Make a plan to register. Take your friends and family, sports mates and church members. Let’s rebuild South Africa’s dreams of equality voter by voter!

Mbali Ntuli is CEO and founder of the Ground Work Collective.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Well done, Ntuli. Good to see you are using your talents in trying to make South Africa a better place in which to work, live, and enjoy. An educated electorate is essential to a true democracy.

  • Francois Breytenbach says:

    So why not give us the link for voter registration?

  • velwano velile mpikashe says:

    Thank you for this helpful article! South Africans must not and CANNOT get complacent by not bothering to vote on Election Day. Failing to vote, in my opinion, amounts to SIN!!!

  • Patricia Fine says:

    Please could you write a piece for South Africans living abroad. Who is eligible, how to register and where, where will voting stations be? Etc
    Any relevant information will be appreciated.
    Are ex-pats born in SA but not holding a passport eligible?

  • Lynne Rivett-Carnac says:

    If we are hoping to get the youth to register to vote next year I cannot believe that the weekend in the middle of exams is the best weekend to attract students to register. Hopefully there will be another weekend in the new year to attract all our yong students to register.

  • District Six says:

    Well, it’s not only voting that counts as important to democracy, but also volunteering to participate in elections as voter station staff, party observers, and officials. No election can happen without citizen involvement. Instead of complaining after the fact, we could all go and volunteer in a voting station – and learn what really happens to make elections work. Instead. Of. Complaining. Afterwards.

  • Just Me says:

    Here are three good reasons to register to vote – vote out the ANC / vote out the EFF / vote out MK (if it it allowed to stand).

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options