Decoding South Africa’s Elections: Changes, Challenges and Your Civic Responsibility – By Sandile Mlangeni

Exploring the Unpredictable Chessboard: New Parties, Digital Influencers, and the Shifting Landscape of South Africa’s Elections.

By: Sandile Mlangeni

In the lead-up to South Africa’s imminent elections, the political landscape is undergoing dynamic shifts, reminiscent of a chessboard in constant flux. Remember your commitment to yourself, the vow to shield your mental well-being from the electoral storm? Right now it faces an ever-growing challenge, as the countdown clock ticks, the uneasiness intensifies, and the once-distant “what’s going to happen?” query becomes more palpable.

A wave of new political parties arises in the political climate

The creation of new political parties can be likened to the formation of entrepreneurial startups in the business world. Just as entrepreneurs initiate new businesses to tackle specific gaps or issues in the market, individuals or groups may establish political parties to address perceived deficiencies or advocate for particular ideologies not adequately represented by existing parties. However, a notable observation is that many of these new parties often lack innovative offerings; their policies often mirror those already present in the manifestos of major parties

The transient and fleeting nature of these political entities introduces an element of unpredictability into the political climate. This leaves citizens grappling with uncertainties about which parties will emerge as key players in the upcoming elections. As voters navigate the landscape of these nascent political organizations, the challenge lies in distinguishing genuine ideological differences from mere replicas of existing political narratives. This dynamic aspect of the political arena adds layers of complexity to the electoral process and underscores the importance of an informed and discerning citizenry. Adding to the complexity is the alarming rise of threats and fears of violence that have found their way into the headlines. The prospect of a peaceful electoral process is overshadowed by concerns about potential disruptions, prompting citizens to navigate this political terrain with heightened caution.

Social media becomes a playground for political frenzy

Social media, once a realm for personal connection and shared interests, has morphed into a battleground for influence. Social media Influencers are now enlisted to disseminate political party propaganda, shaping public opinion and contributing to the pervasive sense of uncertainty. The digital realm, with its vast reach, introduces a new layer of complexity to the political discourse, posing challenges and opportunities alike.

A new political cloud hovers over South Africa

As we delve deeper into the intricacies of the electoral landscape, it’s crucial to bear in mind the historical dominance of the African National Congress (ANC) in South African politics, as they have been the ruling party since the dawn of democracy, but the winds of change appear to be shifting away from the African National Congress as South Africans express frustration with the perceived lack of service delivery and corruption under the ANC’s leadership. The growing discontent suggests a potential transformative shift in public opinion and political dynamics. The decline of the ruling party will likely provide an opportunity for opposition parties, such as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), each with their unique vision and stance, to rise to prominence.

Youth participating in voting processes: What you need to know

During an election year in South Africa, several events and activities typically take place as the nation prepares for the electoral process. Here are some common occurrences:

  1. Political Campaigns: Political parties engage in intensive campaigning to promote their policies, ideologies, and candidates. This includes rallies, door-to-door canvassing, public speeches, and the distribution of campaign materials.
  2. Candidate Nominations: Parties nominate their candidates for various positions, including the presidency, parliamentary seats, and local government roles. This process involves internal party discussions and decision-making.
  3. Voter Registration: The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) conducts voter registration drives to ensure that eligible citizens are registered to vote. This is crucial for maintaining an accurate and up-to-date voter roll.
  4. Debates and Discussions: Candidates and political parties often participate in televised debates and public forums to discuss their positions on key issues. These events provide voters with an opportunity to assess the candidates’ views and policies.
  5. Election Manifestos: Political parties release their election manifestos outlining their plans and promises if they win. These documents serve as a guide for voters to understand the priorities and goals of each party.
  6. Electioneering on Social Media: In the digital age, social media plays a significant role in election campaigns. Political parties and candidates use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to connect with voters, share information, and address concerns.
  7. Increased Political Discussions: Political discourse intensifies across various media outlets, including newspapers, radio, and television. Analysis and commentary on election-related topics become more prominent in public discourse.
  8. Public Awareness Campaigns: The IEC and other organizations run public awareness campaigns to inform citizens about the importance of voting, the electoral process, and how to participate.
  9. Security Measures: Due to the potential for heightened tensions and security concerns during elections, law enforcement agencies often implement additional security measures to ensure a peaceful and secure voting environment.
  10. International Observers: South Africa may invite international observers to monitor the election process, providing an external perspective on the fairness and transparency of the elections.

Democracy in Focus: Understanding the Dynamics of South Africa’s Elections, Electoral System, and the Vital Role of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)

The national elections in South Africa held every five years, mark a cornerstone of democratic expression, providing citizens with the power to shape the course of their nation. The voting age, set at 18, signifies the pivotal moment when young people in South Africa step into the realm of civic responsibility as they exercise their right to vote for a party of their choice. This fundamental process empowers them to actively participate in shaping the course of their future as much as that of their nation.

Through the act of voting, the youth would be exercising their right to influence the composition of the government and contribute to the democratic ideals that underpin the nation’s governance. Young people, by engaging in the electoral process, become integral contributors to the nation’s democratic journey, offering fresh perspectives and influencing the direction of the country. In this year’s elections, we will see youthful political parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) potentially becoming kingmakers of the elections.

The electoral system itself, a mixed-member proportional representation model, is a nuanced blend of first past the post and proportional representation elements. This system strives to capture the diverse voices of the population, ensuring that the outcomes are reflective of the varied perspectives that constitute the South African populace.

Amid this dynamic political landscape, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) stands as a guardian of the democratic process. Entrusted with overseeing the electoral machinery, the IEC plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the principles of fairness and freedom, reinforcing citizens’ confidence in the integrity of the electoral system.

A call for active citizenry as South Africa marches to the voter stations

As we navigate the final stretch leading up to the elections, may the citizens of South Africa approach this pivotal moment with an unwavering commitment to democratic values, a discerning eye on the unfolding developments, and a collective determination to contribute to the shaping of the nation’s future.


About the author:

Sandile Mlangeni is a 2019 GP-based activator, he is passionate about youth activism. Sandile regards it as important to contribute his views and experiences to recognized entities seeking to develop communities. He started his journey as an activist in 2012 when he started collaborating with community-based organizations in his hometown in Tsakane and Kwa-Thema in Ekurhuleni.

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