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Shades of voter disaffection and how to make voting great again

Neelam Rahim | neelam@radioislam.co.za

3 min read | 13:30 pm CAT

The term “voter apathy” has become part of common political discourse and is often used to give the impression of voters who do not vote due to political ignorance or carelessness. The Rivonia Circle’s Songezo Zibi writes in his latest opinion piece that after almost a year of fieldwork such as focus groups, surveys, community meetings and online discussions. He is convinced voter abstention is often a very deliberate political choice.

According to the stats, 45.8 per cent of registered voters participated in the local government elections in 2021, while 54 per cent of the registered voters did not participate.

There was a further 14 million eligible voters who were not registered. Together the number sums up to 28 million out of 60 million South Africans eligible to vote but did not.

In an interview with Radio Islam International, the Rivonia Circle’s Songezo Zibi said people are generally aware of elections when they take place. However, they don’t particularly have a party they would like to vote for as they don’t trust political actors.

According to Zibi, the lack of voter participation indicates a lack of trust in political parties and systems, with good reason.

He said the deliberate political choice not to vote stems from the fact that the system does not allow people to voice their disapproval of the people representing us, nor can they request that different people be put into power.

“People believe politicians are in it for power and positions rather than to serve the people,” he says.

He added that his main concern is that coalitions are collapsing, giving people more reasons not to vote and increasing the disaffection that people already have towards the political system.

Zibi put forward that should the political system engage with the voters throughout the year, focusing on coming up with solutions in which they can get involved, implementing and giving them a say in choosing candidates, voter turnout could improve.

Listen below to the interview with Moulana Habib Bobat and Songezo Zibi on Radio Islam’s podcast.


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