Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News, 2014-05-06
The South African general elections is just one day away and many citizens are yet undecided on who they are going to vote for or if they are going to vote at all.
Too many people don't take advantage of the privilege they get to cast their vote in an election.
Many call voting a "sacred right," and it is one of the most important parts of our political system, a part that goes back to our earliest days as a nation.
This year the country celebrates 20 years since the dawn of democracy and by voting people can play a meaningful role in the country’s constitutional and multiparty democracy
Dr Kealeboga J Maphunye, Chair of the WIPHOLD-Brigalia Bam Chair in Electoral Democracy in Africa, housed in Unisa’s Political Sciences Department, says that any country that wishes to be known as a democracy has to follow democratic processes of selecting, appointing and removing its public representatives, and this is where democratic, free and fair elections come in.
Addressing the issue of South Africans who feel their votes do not count, he says, while it is in their constitutional right to not vote, there are two implications affecting such South Africans.
“Their abstention usually means that those who do vote will automatically take decisions on their behalf, and, secondly, once a government is elected by those who voted, those who abstained cannot subsequently complain about it since they voluntarily chose not to exercise their right to choose.”
In addition, says Maphunye, since votes (ballots) are counted at voting stations, all votes count because sometimes there is a tie or a statement wherein candidate A does not have an outright majority as does candidate B.
In this case, one would wish for an extra vote or ballot which could just swing the results one way or another.
“When one votes, one is not doing anyone a favour but actually exercising one’s constitutionally enshrined right to choose the country’s leaders.
Of course, in a country that enjoys relative stability and wherein the political system experiences one-party dominance such as South Africa’s, it is possible for voters to become lethargic and think that voting is unimportant.
But history is replete with governments that have been toppled democratically through the ballot once the voters believe that such governments have lost touch with the wishes of the electorates,” said Maphunye.