Lack of voter education, poor service delivery blamed for low voter turnout at the Ditsobotla by-elections

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Political parties in the North West say lack of voter education and poor service delivery are to blame for the low voter turnout at the Ditsobotla by-elections.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission in North West, 71 914 people registered to vote for the Ditsobotla by-elections that took place on Wednesday.

Concern over low voter turnout for Ditsobotla By-elections:

Video – Political parties in Ditsobotla concede service delivery failures as by-elections under way:

However, voter apathy is seemingly a concern, given that less than 30% of the registered population cast their vote. The low turnout is becoming a pattern in the Ditsobotla area, as it has been decreasing over the years.

During the 2011 local government elections, voter turnout was 57.13%, and during the 2021 local government elections, voter turnout had dropped to 44.90%.

The Ditsobotla local municipal by-elections with hundreds of voting stations which are seemingly a low voter turnout. The IEC says only 25% of the registered population cast their votes.

Political parties’ reaction

The Patriotic Alliance’s Henry Schalkwyk says, “The turnout is not looking so good because I think some of the voters are fed up with the current government meaning the ANC.”

The DA’s Leon Basson says there are several reasons why people decided not to show up at voting stations.

“I think the people are disgruntled, they feel that it doesn’t help them to vote anymore. We have to work hard to get our people to vote,” Basson added.

Video – By-elections taking place in the Ditsobotla Municipality:

Other parties, including the EFF, say the IEC is not providing voter education.

Marshall Dlamini who is the general secretary of the EFF says, “The part of the responsibilities of the IEC themselves as an agency is to do voter education but we know them, they are an agency that now and again is found wanting to be leaning more towards the ANC side.”

FF PLUS’ Pieter Groenewald says, “Does the electoral commission for instance do enough to do voter education? From my side, I’ll say no because they don’t understand the system. The moment they realize that my vote counts and can make a difference, I think the turnout will be much higher.”

The ANC, which led the council with just 51% prior to the by-elections, says it shouldn’t be blamed for the low voter turnout.

”The problem in terms of the voter turnout is not really attributed to the ANC in particular but generally our voter turnout in terms of the society, they still have confidence in the ANC,” says the ANC’s Tumelo Maruping.

Video – Ditsobotla Municipality voters ready for by-elections:

The IEC says it is doing the best it can

IEC’s Electoral officer, Tumelontle Thiba says, “I am not sure too if voter turnout can be blamed entirely on the impact of voter education from the side of the IEC. We are of course intensifying our education and particularly civic and democracy education so that voters know that it is a civic right and responsibility for them to vote. However, the IEC is a midwife that deliver elections. We do not really have control over the circumstances that make voters decide whether or not they want to go and vote.”

Local government expert Dr Tshepang Molale says voters may feel that their vote is redundant when service delivery doesn’t improve.

“For as long as service delivery are this massive in a municipality like Ditsobotla. We will continue to see a growing trend of people who have lost confidence in our public office bearers. Because the general mood would be “why should I vote for these people because I know that they will not fulfill my wishes”. They need to re-write the script and go back into the municipality and fix the endemic challenges, corruption maladministration you name them,” as Molale further explains.

Video – Ditsobotla Local Municipality ready for today’s by-elections: