The run-up to the 2019 National and Provincial elections has begun and on 8 May 2019 millions of South Africans will cast their votes in the country’s sixth democratic elections. This day will be declared a public holiday to enable all eligible voters to have sufficient time to cast their votes and elect leaders that will govern our country for the next five years.

This is in line with the Freedom Charter which proclaims that the legitimacy of a government should be based on the will of the people and that “all people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country”.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), more than 26,7 million eligible voters have registered for the upcoming elections and this represents 74.5% of the eligible voting population in the country. The increase in the number of people who registered to vote is testament to our vibrant and functioning democracy.

While we are pleased with the number of registered voters, we remain concerned about 9 million eligible voters who are still not registered. We appeal to all eligible voters, especially young voters to register at their nearest IEC offices situated at municipal offices around the country.

Registered voters can also confirm or verify their address details at these IEC offices.

This opportunity is however only open until President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaims the election date. Remember to bring your smart ID card, green barcoded ID document or a valid temporary ID certificate.

As we get closer to the elections, South Africans will hear what various political parties have to say on policies aimed at improving their lives, in particular the economy and job creation. Leaders of various political parties will also be campaigning all over the country and we appeal for political tolerance, peace and a free and fair environment for elections.

Some however, may argue that voting does not necessarily equate to material changes, irrespective of who wins. This is a fallacy as every vote counts, and the voice of the people is central to democracy.

Over the past 10 years one can actually argue that we have seen how our independent institutions have matured and remained steadfast to upholding the central tenants of our democracy, in the main accountability and exposing corruption where it arises. The recent numerous commissions which are currently running are a commitment to resolving and exposes those who may have abused public positions for personal gain. And in the words of the President during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) watch this space.

The participation of voters is central to the success of a well-functioning of democracy and regular elections are a means for citizens to hold their leaders accountable for their performance while in government. We should also never lose sight of the fact that many people sacrificed their lives for us to have this right to vote.

We therefore appeal that all who are eligible to vote should do so. Your voice is essential in building a better South Africa for all and will ensure that we continue to build on the gains we have made over the last 25 years of democracy.

As government we are convinced that our nation has changed substantially over the past 25 years of freedom, but we remain forever mindful that more still needs to be done.

We have made good progress in the provision of basic services and improving the lives of all citizens. For instance, over 3,2 million free houses have been built since 1994 benefiting over 14 million people. According to the 2017 General Household Survey, the percentage of South Africans living in ‘RDP’ or state-subsidised dwellings increased from 5,6 % in 2002 to 13,6 % in 2017.

Those with access to improved sanitation increased from 61,7% in 2002 to 82,2 % in 2017 while households without sanitation or who used the bucket toilet system decreased from 12,6% in 2002 to 3,1 % in 2017.

To ensure that our municipalities function optimally and deliver services to the poor, government last year launched the Municipal Recovery Plan which is derived from the Back-to-Basics principles.

Through the Municipal Recovery Plan, the competency of personnel is being improved through training and skills transfer as well as enforcing minimum standards for municipal managers and senior officials. Most municipalities have also adopted actions to improve their performance, in areas such as financial management and human resources.

Even though we have made many gains since 1994, there is much more to be done by leaders who will be elected in the upcoming elections. It is therefore incumbent that all eligible voters go out in numbers to elect leaders who will build on the achievements of the last 25 years. Our democracy requires that we regularly exercise our democratic right to vote and keep our democracy alive.

Author:  Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana.