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Mbali Ntuli — voting may be individual, but democracy is critically a collective responsibility

Mbali Ntuli — voting may be individual, but democracy is critically a collective responsibility
Mbali Ntuli speaks during The Gathering Twenty Twenty Four Election Edition at CTICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre). 14 March 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Community organiser and former politician Mbali Ntuli said that while voting was a personal action, ‘democracy is a group project’ as she aims to kick start the work of keeping democracy alive through active participation and civic organisation. 

“This is the greatest country in the world and we have to fight for it,” said community organiser Mbali Ntuli as she delivered a keynote address during Daily Maverick’s flagship The Gathering on Thursday 14 March at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Gathering 2024

Ntuli is the founder of Ground Work Collective, an organisation that aims to teach communities about their civic rights to assist with empowering themselves in their lives.

Mbali Ntuli speaks during The Gathering Twenty Twenty Four Election Edition at CTICC (Cape Town International Convention Centre). 14 March 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Speaking on Thursday, Ntuli said while alarmists have said these would be South Africa’s last elections, she believed this was wrong. “Have you met us?” she asked the more than 1,000 people in attendance. Ntuli said that South Africans would not be told what would happen to the country — “we will decide what happens on this land”.

In recent months, Ntuli and her organisation have focused on the voting process and motivating ctizens — particularly young people — to register for the upcoming elections. This includes doing voter registration drives.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Top music acts hit right note with young KZN voters as reward for registering for 2024 elections

During her address, she said, “don’t be a passive recipient of democracy”. She asked people to stand up for democracy and become voting observers during the May elections. Earlier this week, Daily Maverick reported that Ground Work Collective and other civil society organisations have united to get people registered as election observers.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Civil society calls on citizens to protect SA’s democracy by becoming election observers 

Ntuli admitted that while she knew citizens were tired, “we cannot stop because we’re tired… we will stop when we are done”.

With the upcoming elections, she said citizens needed to re-think politics and rather ask what citizens can do to help incoming politicians.

Mbali Ntuli at The Gathering Twenty Twenty Four Election Edition. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Another issue Ntuli touched on was the country’s shared history. She said the country’s shared trauma was not the only thing inherited fromprior generation but also sheer grit and attitude that was shared too. However, she said: “I think we’ve forgotten a bit who we are”.

Ntuli was previously part of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, having been a member of the DA caucus. She left the party in 2022, after around 15 years of membership. She left two years after a loss to John Steenhuisen for the DA’s top job. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    The South African population as a whole does not have the necessary life tools to support democracy when faced with the decisions required to support a first world style economy . I would suggest that many do not even have a clear understanding of its meaning or the individual responsibility it comes with.

    Sadly this means that the likely outcome of democratic elections will be a poor future for all.

    And even more generally, until we all learn that together we win and divided we fall, appreciate that there are no free lunch outcomes, and celebrate all our people in all their diversity, we are doomed to fail.

  • ST ST says:

    So true Mbali. Like the highlighting of the shared trauma. We don’t even know we have it and that it is collective manifesting differently. Thank you.

  • Keryn House says:

    An important message for all South Africans to hear, thanks for sharing. We’re stronger together, but only when we get actively involved in building community at all levels, not just online but actually in-person where we are, across all demographic groups.

    Please don’t forget to reach out to all the South Africans abroad who want to participate too, who love and miss South Africa but are out of the country for multiple reasons. There are groups of South Africans in almost every city across the globe who can be engaged in the run up to elections, and FB groups are active to help bring them together in-person, to vote and to support initiatives.

    The message by Maria Ressa needs to be read in parallel with this presentation, to always balance online with in-person reality. We are stronger together, when we are underpinning digital with in-person actions in community.

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