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Africa is Special, Even Its Elections

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 29, 2021 14:14

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South Africa goes to the polls in critical elections next week. Voter apathy, as in many other countries, is an issue as voters challenge established parties.

Elections and politics are getting boring. So, dear reader, I invite you to the wilderness of Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. As has been happening over the millennia a team of lions stampeded a herd of buffalo, and in the confusion pulled down a few. But then, surprise! The victims turned on the perpetrators and chased them off. In the end the lions did get their usual ration, but it was not without some adrenalin and a lesson in caution. 

Watch, enjoy and consider coming to experience the wilderness for yourself. Our elections are as wild, but perhaps not as spectacular. 

On November 1 local elections will take place, and already the signs are that this will be an earth-shaking event. Given that the political system has become rife with patronage and corruption it is not altogether surprising that violence prevails. Numerous candidates were killed or intimidated in a competition for lucrative posts.

The ruling African National Congress, once the party of freedom fighters who did not join the struggle against Apartheid to be poor, now has to explain to the electorate why almost all State-run enterprises are bankrupt, why the State-owned electricity utility is in dire straits and has to cut power for up to six hours per day, and why the country, after 25 years of their rule, enjoys a world-beating 35% unemployment rate. The Party's election machinery is sadly out of shape.

Johannesburg, once called Egoli, the City of Gold, now epitomizes most of the country, with decrepit power and water infrastructure. Hospitals depend on water supplied by a charity organization and ratepayers just refuse to pay up for non-existing services. 

It is clear from polls that no party will enjoy an absolute majority. Gone are the days when the ruling African National Congress could count on a 66% majority. Instead, President Ramaphosa, campaigning for his party, had to back down when angry voters confronted him about unemployment and the lack of electricity, by promising that if they vote for his party the problems, caused by his party, will be fixed. 

Candidates are nominated by parties, not the electorate. Many complain that the nominated candidates are not who voters would prefer. This system, criticized over the years, is still protected by all parties as this makes it easier for them to keep representatives in line, create careers and hierarchies and collect funds. But a result of this is voter apathy as many believe there is no hope of influencing a political system that preys on the electorate. 

The vote of young people who had grown up after the end of Apartheid is especially troublesome, with some claiming that up to three-quarters of young voters did not bother to register. 

Voter apathy is a problem everywhere. But remember, buffaloes can turn on predators, voters can turn on political parties. Next Monday will be an indication of the future. 

 

 

 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 29, 2021 14:14

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It will also ban political ads once the polls for the US elections close on November 3.

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