Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Tomorrow I shall be visiting communities around Durban, encouraging people to register to vote in the upcoming Local Government Elections. I will go to voting stations and walk the streets, because I not only believe that everyone has the right to vote, but that everyone should exercise that right – particularly at local government level.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has set aside this weekend for voter registration. If you are a South African citizen and have a green, bar-coded ID, this is the time to register to vote. If you fail to register, you will not be eligible to vote in the coming elections. Your voice will be silenced in May 2011.
Thus, some time between 8am and 5pm on Saturday or Sunday, I urge you to take your ID to your local voting station and register. If you have registered before, SMS your ID number to 32810 to determine your voting station. If you have moved since you registered, you will need to re-register in your new voting district.
If you are unsure where to register, contact your nearest IFP office for assistance. Our numbers are listed under " IFP Contacts " on our website.
For those who are unable to register this weekend, for whatever reason, you can still register at your local Municipal Electoral Office during office hours, provided you do so before the election date is proclaimed by the President. But it makes sense to do it this weekend, because you won’t need to travel as far or wait as long. One quick trip will ensure that your voice will be heard.
Previously, the IEC did not allow a special vote to be cast for local government elections. The special vote was reserved for national and provincial elections. But the law is being changed and a special vote will be allowed for May’s Local Government Elections. To be eligible for a special vote, you will still need to register – do it this weekend.
The special vote allows a registered voter who is unable to get to a voting station on election day to cast their vote prior to elections. This assists people with disabilities or physical infirmities, heavily pregnant women, election officers and anyone who will be out of the country on election day.
I encourage families and community organizations to assist special voters to register this weekend.
Voting is as much a responsibility as it is a right. After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, our Constitution required the creation of an independent electoral body. The IEC was established under my leadership as Minister of Home Affairs, and I put the best domestic and international minds to work on how best to manage and ensure free and fair elections. Having struggled for so long for political enfranchisement, South Africans deserved to have their rights protected.
My generation dedicated itself completely to the task of bringing democracy to South Africa and establishing a new Republic. We freed the country and all its people. In so doing we left for the generation that follows us to ensure that freedom may forge a new population of genuinely free, responsible, aware, and both politically and economically active citizens.
As legislation was being drafted around electoral practices, I made a proposal in my capacity as Minister of Home Affairs that voter education should not be limited to explaining to people how to vote, but should explain to them why to vote. I regret that those in power rejected this idea. We now have high levels of voter apathy and abstention, particularly when it comes to local government elections.
But democracy needs critical and educated voters. Unfortunately, many South Africans are far from being the type of citizens a democracy requires to function properly. They are not aware consumers. They are not critical voters. They have not risen to the full measure of responsibility and opportunity which freedom has created for us all.
Traditionally many of our communities perceive voting as an act of allegiance, rather than the time to hold their representatives accountable and fill in the report card on what they have accomplished. In many domestic and international venues concerns are expressed about the quality of our country’s leadership. Yet the danger to South Africa is not only rotten leaders, but a citizenry capable of entrusting such leaders with their future.
Voting for corrupt or inept leaders simply because they are leaders is a terrible mistake. A vote for an untested party is likewise a serious risk, for the vote bestows power for the next five years. There is no basis to determine whether a new party will survive for five years, never mind have the will or capacity to meet service delivery expectations.
The newly formed splinter group, the NFP, has announced that it may tell voters not to vote. That expresses not only disdain for everything our people went through to be able to vote, but a particularly poor grasp on the workings of democracy. A spoiled vote, or no vote at all, is a vote in favour of the status quo. It doesn’t express dissatisfaction or ire, but complicity with how things are being done.
You have a right and a duty to hold your leaders accountable. If you are unhappy with the level of service delivery in your area, register to vote.
If you are confident in your leaders and satisfied with their track record, register to vote. If you want a say in how you are governed, register to vote. If you care about South Africa, register this weekend to make your mark in May 2011.
The IFP has worked for South Africans for 35 years. We have been the voice of the people when there was no other political home for the disenfranchised majority. We have been the voice of the people in a democratic government.
We have been the watchdog over power. We have been a strong opposition, holding leaders accountable and exposing weak governance. For the sake of democracy, we have a vital role to play in the political dispensation of tomorrow.
Because I care about your right to vote and the IFP cares about governance of the people, by the people, I shall be visiting communities tomorrow, reminding everyone I meet to register to vote. I hope you will join me with this message in your own community.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP