Why not voting allows bad politicians to continue

Much of the promise of democracy in South Africa has been giving people power over their government, and as a young person it is your duty to take full advantage of that promise.

Deciding not to vote is not an uncommon stance in South Africa. When it comes to being politically involved via the ballot box, South Africans, especially young people, are generally apathetic. Many people turn to protests to show their discontent with issues such as service delivery but this happens instead of, rather than in addition to voting. This apathy is evidenced in low voter turnout during elections. The 2021 Local Government Elections saw the lowest turnout for an election in democratic South Africa, with just under half of registered voters coming to the polls. A 2019 survey found that 58% of South Africans believed that their votes didn’t make a difference, which might begin to explain the low voter turnout.

In all my 11 years of being eligible to vote, I have only done so once. This is because I believed that all politicians were the same and I have always felt strongly excluded from the political rhetoric. However, the fact remains that South Africa is not without any genuine options of politicians to elect who have the interests of its citizens at heart. This is why we all must go out to vote in the next general election which will be held in 2024 to elect a new National Assembly as well as the provincial legislature in each province. If you don’t vote, you miss an opportunity to bring democratic change to your community.

Not voting is voting for the status quo

Despite how disillusioned we are with politicians and the government, we need to go out and vote. Not voting is to our detriment. Not voting is in fact, voting for the status quo – leaving things just as they are. By not voting, you accept and signal that you are happy with our politics and government’s performance. It may feel like your one single vote will not make a difference, but adding up all the votes of those who abstain can swing an entire election and bring about the much needed change. Bringing about democracy in South Africa entailed much pain and suffering. The opportunity to participate in the democratic process to enable real change should not be taken for granted.

Rewarding bad behaviours

Bad politicians sow seeds for more bad politicians if they go unchecked. South Africa’s political landscape lacks accountability and integrity to take us out of the conundrum of terrible politicians. Not voting is one way of ensuring that the bad politicians are simply rewarded for their bad behaviours. Being complacent in exercising your right to vote does have consequences.

A liberal democracy cannot be sustained without active participation in voting in ensuring the appropriate change in leadership to take the country forward. Thus, the lack of participation by so many  young people - the future leaders in our society – does our country a disservice.

I have realised that although I may not endorse any one party’s values and policies, it is worth investing time to find one that is most closely aligned to them. If this still doesn’t motivate you to give a party your support, at least consider using your vote strategically to reduce a party’s dominance or encourage coalition governance. But whatever you do, don’t not vote.

Every government should be driven by young people because it is their future at stake. Young people have the drive, passion, and energy to build a sustainable nation if they care to get involved. Much of the promise of democracy in South Africa has been giving people power over their government, and as a young person it is your duty to take full advantage of that promise.


Cover image source available here.