SHARON LETLAPE | Registering to vote is the catalyst for change

The ANC has failed the country on many levels, however, through registering to vote, we all have the power to correct this

15 November 2023 - 22:00
By Sharon Letlape
Taking part in next year's general election will be crucial in shaping the country's future.
Image: GALLO IMAGES/LISA HNATOWICZ Taking part in next year's general election will be crucial in shaping the country's future.

In the tapestry of a democratic nation, one of the most fundamental threads is the right of every citizen to participate in shaping the destiny of their country through the power of their vote. As we stand at the cusp of another crucial electoral chapter in South Africa, it is imperative that we reflect on the significance of voter registration — a cornerstone of democracy that empowers the masses and ensures their voices resonate through the hallowed corridors of governance.

In the annals of South African politics, the ANC began as an indomitable force — a liberation movement turned political powerhouse that played a pivotal role in dismantling the shackles of apartheid. However, as history teaches us, no political entity is immune to the winds of change. Since 2008, the ANC has witnessed a gradual decline in its electoral fortunes, reflecting a complex interplay of internal challenges, governance issues and evolving public sentiment.

This decline is not merely a statistical downturn; it is a reflection of the changing aspirations and expectations of the South African populace. Citizens, especially the youth, have become increasingly vocal about the need for a more responsive, transparent and accountable government. The electoral decline of the ANC serves as a democratic signal, urging political parties to reassess their strategies and reconnect with the aspirations of the people they serve.

In contrast, the rise of the EFF is a compelling narrative of grassroots mobilisation and a resounding call for economic justice and equality. Founded in 2013, the EFF has rapidly grown in stature, emerging as a critical force in South African politics. This ascent is not merely about numbers, but reflects a yearning for a more inclusive and equitable political landscape.

The EFF’s growth underscores the importance of political movements that resonate with the concerns of the marginalised and disenfranchised. As we traverse the landscape of electoral politics, the EFF stands as a testament to the power of organised radical movements and the ability to galvanise support through a coherent vision for change.

In the tapestry of these political shifts, the role of voter registration emerges as pivotal. It is the gateway through which ordinary citizens transform into active participants in the democratic process. Voter registration is not merely a bureaucratic process; it is a declaration of intent, a commitment to shape the future of our nation.

As we navigate the complex terrain of contemporary politics, the call to action is clear: register, mobilise, and empower. As it stands, our nation is not in its best state after the betrayal of those who were elected in 1994, our moment of hope.

As we navigate the complex terrain of contemporary politics, the call to action is clear: register, mobilise and empower. As itstands, our nation is not in its best state after the betrayal of those who were elected in 1994, our moment of hope. With many issues plaguing our country, we need to highlight these betrayals to light the fire in our citizens to use their power and voices.

Youth unemployment statistics continue to be a distressing factor, to the point of it being criminal, under the ANC government. The youth, aged 15-24, bear the brunt of unemployment with a staggering rate of 60.7%, while the 25-34 age group contends with a significant 39.8%. Even more alarming is the number of young individuals, aged 15-24, who find themselves not employed and lacking any form of education or training (NEET). Out of a total of 10.2 million young people, almost 3.5 million are neither employed nor enrolled in any school or education programme, underscoring a critical challenge that requires immediate attention and comprehensive solutions.

Our nation is grappling with a severe cost of living crisis. In August 2023, the average cost of a household food basket surged to R5,124.34, representing a daunting increase of R348.75 (7.3%) from its August 2022 figure of R4,775.59. This exorbitant rise in essential expenses, coupled with escalating costs like fuel, poses an insurmountable burden for most households, especially those reliant on social grants.

Tragically, the dire consequences of this crisis came devastatingly to the fore in September, when a mother and three of her children were found lifeless in Lusikisiki. Faced with the unbearable strain of poverty and an inability to provide for her family, she felt compelled to instruct her four children to ingest poisonous pills. This heart-wrenching incident starkly illustrates the harsh reality that many South Africans are enduring.

This is the South Africa that the ANC has inadvertently contributed to — a nation where the cost of living has become an unbearable weight on the shoulders of its citizens, leading to unthinkable tragedies.

Additionally, NSFAS, established to support underprivileged students pursue higher education, has faced persistent challenges in timely fund disbursements. The decision to involve companies lacking essential licences, including unethical selection by the former NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo, has fuelled corruption in the already dysfunctional organisation.

Recently, there was a revelation of 157,980 ghost students fraudulently receiving R1,650 per month highlighting a potential annual loss of R260.7m. This corruption, coupled with ANC’s apparent disregard for the struggles of underprivileged students, paints a disheartening picture of the state of education in South Africa.

This distressing situation underscores a concerning reality — the ANC’s apparent disregard for the wellbeing of our children. The evidence is glaring in the consistent rise in crimes against children, deplorable conditions like pit toilets in schools, the misappropriation of funds intended for school lunches, the prevalence of informal and inadequate school structures, and shockingly low literacy rates among primary schoolchildren.

This is not just an academic crisis; it’s a moral and humanitarian one. The ANC, entrusted with the welfare of the nation’s future, has reached a lamentable low, allowing the basic needs and rights of children to be neglected. Urgent and decisive action is imperative to rectify these systemic failures and ensure that no child has to endure such hardships in pursuit of education.

Finally, we find ourselves in a critical state of emergency, particularly in the harrowing realm of gender-based violence (GBV). The recent incident involving a female student from Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), brutally attacked and stabbed by a male University of Western Cape (UWC) student on campus, sends shivers down our spines. This tragic narrative echoes the haunting memory of University of Cape Town (UCT) student Uyinene Mrwetyana’s murder in 2019, a stark reminder that our educational institutions are not safe havens.

The heartbreaking reality is that we send our young girls to school, only to see them return in body bags, victimised by entitled men, shaped within a deeply entrenched misogynistic, patriarchal culture. The impunity surrounding such heinous acts reflects a systemic failure, and the lack of consequential measures underscores the ANC’s inability to adequately protect the women and children of our nation.

This is a fundamental crisis, a betrayal of the most basic need — safety. How can we entrust the ANC with the governance of our entire country when they consistently fall short in addressing this urgent and pervasive issue? Urgent action is not a choice; it is a necessity to safeguard the lives and dignity of the women and children who deserve so much better.

In conclusion, the importance of voter registration cannot be overstated. It is the catalyst for change, the pulse of democracy that beats within the hearts of its citizens. As we approach the upcoming elections, let us remember that the power to shape the future of South Africa lies within us. Through the simple yet profound act of registering to vote, we affirm our commitment to a vibrant, dynamic and participatory democracy — one that reflects the true aspirations of the people.

* Sharon Letlape is an EFF MP.