Manifestos, funding sources should guide your vote

“Who can I vote for because it seems as if all political parties are the same.”  This statement has dominated election discourse in the past and will likely feature again leading up to the May 29th elections.
Manifestos, funding sources should guide your vote

South African voters are facing what can only be described as a ‘voter’s dilemma’ as they remain confused and fatigued by failed promises from multiple political parties over the years.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is yet to formally announce how many political parties and independent candidates have formally met the legal requirements to contest the elections. But it is expected that the number will increase from the 48 political parties which contested the 2019 general elections, especially with the addition of independent candidates, who will feature on the ballot for the first time.

While voting remains a personal decision, weighing how different political actors plan to address different needs and priorities could play a role in helping decide who to vote for.

Political parties and some independent candidates have released their extensive manifestos, which sets out their action plan should they be elected. Engaging with these manifestos will equip voters with the necessary knowledge regarding whether an independent candidate or a party’s policies and priorities align with their initial perception. These manifestos should therefore be used as a guiding tool for voters who are still indecisive about whom to vote for.

It is important for voters to know how a party, or an independent candidate will tackle different issues such as unemployment, crime, a stagnant economy, rising food prices, low levels of service delivery, and rampant xenophobia in order to ensure that the right to vote is fully given effect to.

Additionally, political funding is often a vital but ignored element when deciding who to vote for. It is important to know where political parties and independents obtain their funding as donors often play a subtle but influential role in dictating the agenda and vision of certain parties and candidates. Civil society organization, My Vote Counts, has a monitoring tracker which provides financial details and the names of funders who donate to parties (independent candidates are excluded for now). The tracker, which is updated quarterly, details the amount of money parties receive from donors, whether in cash or in kind. Almost 30 years after our first democratic election, voters cannot keep relying on the promises made at the dawn of democracy but should use all of the information that is available to them in order to make informed decisions.

With the IEC having confirmed that the voter’s roll has reached a record high of 27, 79 million voters, it is up every single individual to vote in such a manner that the elected government is truly representative of the needs of every South African.

The constitution is unambiguous in section 190 (1)(b) in compelling the IEC to ensure elections are free and fair. In that spirit, with this election coinciding with the country’s 30 years of democratic rule, it becomes our collective responsibility to defend the gains of our constitutional democracy and help the commission to deliver on its constitutional mandate.

To this end, there are opportunities available for those who are concerned about whether the elections will be free and fair. The IEC has opened a window for organisations who want to become election observers to oversee the processes which take place before, during and after the election, including the counting process. Like political party agents, an observer’s duty is to guard threats to credibility.

The brief was originally published on Sowetan. Here is the link.

Ezekiel Kekana & Sophie Smit are researchers at Helen Suzman Foundation.