Kate Lefko–Everett of the IJR writes that as voting began at polling stations around the country this morning, speculation surrounding voter turnout is rife, particularly in communities that have been affected by service delivery.
Early indications suggest where disenfranchisement is high; some citizens may in fact stay away from voting stations. In Mandela Park, Cape Town, members of Abahlali baseMjondolo have said they will march peacefully on Election Day rather than voting, citing a lack of responsiveness from city leadership over concerns surrounding electrification, water and sanitation services, access to land and security of tenure in housing.
While other citizens may instead choose to vote on 18 May, the frustration of Abahlali baseMjondolo members is not unique: last year, the SA Reconciliation Barometer survey found that 46% of South Africans feel that if public officials are not interested in hearing the concerns of ordinary people, there is really no way to make them listen.
Further, more than half of all South Africans (51%) feel national leadership and the ‘people who run this country’, who have appeared in their numbers along the local government campaign trail, are not concerned about the views of ordinary citizens. One in five of South Africans, in fact, believe that national leaders cannot be trusted to do ‘what is right’ most of the time.
High percentage of citizens believe that protest is justifiable
In addition to staying away from voting stations, distrust and a lack of confidence in government institutions and political leadership has led to protests around the country in recent years, often related to issues of basic service delivery.
The SA Reconciliation Barometer has also documented high percentage of citizens who believe that protest is justifiable, in cases in which their human rights are being violated. Fifty-one percent (51%) agree that protest is justified in these circumstances. A further 16% believe more violent protest is justifiable, including actions such as damage to public property or the taking of hostages.
With early reports that a voting station has been burned down in Limpopo, it remains to be seen whether citizens will cast their votes on 18 May, stay away from polls, or turn to alternate means of voicing their political views.