Local Government Elections
Local Government Elections
Municipalities represent the sphere of government closest to the people and have a bigger impact and influence over citizens’ daily lives than the national government. Every day municipalities have to make tough decisions about driving economic growth in towns, building and maintaining infrastructure, building houses and providing the essential every day services that residents depend on, like bin collections and filling in potholes.
According to the Auditor-General, 92% of municipalities are in poor financial health and require intervention. They are struggling because of poor management, corruption or a lack of adequate resources. As a result, service delivery protests have become a common feature across the country as communities show their dissatisfaction towards officials who they consider unresponsive and unaccountable. By exercising your right to vote, you will have the opportunity to change this and have a say about how councils spend money and run services in your community.
Political parties and candidates are pulling out all stops to woo voters. Consequently, there are a lot of promises made, slogans, rhetoric and theatrics during this election cycle. Political parties and candidates often have different priorities and voting can provide an indication of the services that matter to local communities. This elections present voters with important choices and you have an obligation to wade through all the noise and make the best decision for your community. Interestingly, research shows that some of the most important factors that influence voters include party identification, the political view and ideology of the candidate, the candidate's former practices and record and the candidate’s familiarity with local problems.
According to the IEC, there is a 65% increase in the number of parties since the 2011 local government elections and a 12% rise in the number of candidates. In addition, there is an 11% increase in the number of citizens who are registered, compared to the previous local government elections. All of this data is positive news as it highlights that while people might be frustrated and have a low opinion of elected representatives; they have not withdrawn and are still engaged in the process. It also indicates an appetite within communities for people to have a greater say in the places where they live and work. Another increase has been the number of independents contesting the elections. The IEC is still validating candidate nominations, but there could be 1 000 independents once the process had been completed
What happens between elections (such as monitoring and tracking performance) is as significant as what happens on election day. Citizen participation beyond elections is important as this helps to institutionalise democratic structures, improve service delivery, reduce government corruption and enhance accountability and individual performance of councillors. In addition, it helps to foster more inclusive communities and enables broader ideas for solutions and not just the views of the privileged or well-connected. Without active involvement of citizens, government power can be abused and used to benefit a narrow group. Your role does not end on voting day. Sustained engagement is needed!