As the Country faces a Water Crisis amidst Load shedding Voters have yet to see a real alternative in the Opposition
The country is in a dull position. Residents across the interior of the country are facing a water shortage as well as load shedding.1 This is true of Gauteng and Free State Provinces.2 Locals in Johannesburg and the surrounding area have had to drill boreholes in the ground to collect rainwater which has be boiled.3 “We are in a state of systematic water failure, the water state is collapsing,” expert Prof Anthony Turton tells the BBC.4 This makes load shedding look like the least of South Africa’s national problems. But it is the lack of electricity has exacerbated issues created by poorly maintained infrastructure, which has led to vast leaks as well as sewage problems, and a supply of water that cannot meet demand.5 With so many spiraling crises the upcoming 2024 general election should see the governing African National Congress (ANC) party unseated from its dominant position, if the voter turnout is high enough.6
The decline in ANC election-day support over the same period has been far more modest. Though it receded from its historical high of 70% in April 2004, it still won 58% of the vote in 2019 and retained its dominance of the policy-making process. That was despite massive and widely publicised corruption over years of “state capture” – the deliberate diversion of state resources for private gain under former president Jacob Zuma (May 2009- February 2018). The second trend relates to voter turnout. When measured as a proportion of eligible voters – the international standard – election day participation has declined much more sharply. It’s down by almost 40 percentage points, from a high of 86% in 1994 to just 49% in the last general election in 2019. We believe that this drop in voter turnout helps the ANC stay in power despite its dismal governance record. The 2019 turnout rate of 49% compares poorly to other countries. Unlike other established democracies, the gap between eligible and registered voters has steadily increased in South Africa. The sharp downward trend in turnout is intimately related to the much more modest downward trend in ANC support. (Analysis| SA’S governing party performing dismally, but a flawed opposition keeps it in power)
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The low turnout of 49% in 2019 is indeed alarming and shows the apathy among South African citizens for choosing a new leadership to govern the country. It is up to the opposition to change all this and improve its standing with the voters. They (the Democratic Alliance, Action SA, Rise Mzansi and Build One South Africa) have to change their tune and appeal for unity through offering change. The key promises they can offer are the strengthening of institutions that hold the government to account and to be transparent. These are the National Prosecuting Authority, the Public Protector, The Judicial Service Commission and Civil Society. Reviving the Scorpions Directorate of Special Operations could go a long way in combatting corruption.
South Africa although our democracy allows for the separation of Executive and legislative powers, the concentration of Executive power in the person of the president has led to disastrous decisions being taken. There is a saying that democracy will be lost when the people stop believing in it. In other words they stop participating in it. If this happens it would become easier for the state to erode the independence of our institutions. Service delivery would become less important leading to anarchy when the power and water stop working. It is up to our opposition to break the lazes fare attitude among the people and put forward their arguments concerning why they should be in charge.