South Africa is a few weeks away from what seems to be the most contested poll, and probably the highly anticipated election arguably, since April 1994. For numerous reasons, South Africans are gearing themselves up to exercise their democratic right to free franchise. A record number of 48 political parties will appear on the national ballot in May, 19 more than those registered in 2014. Meanwhile in 1994 only 27 polities parties contested elections.
Because elections form a key component of democracy, citizens are afforded an opportunity every five years to elect their representatives who will hold public office. In the upcoming elections, there will be more than 26 million people on the voters roll eligible to carry out this task. Young people also seem to have heeded the call to register to vote, as the IEC reported that during the final registration weekend, more than half a million people who registered to vote in this years general elections were young people.
Due to the rising sense of euphoria, you would be forgiven for thinking that South Africans are going to elections for the first time. There is this distant belief that the upcoming elections will deliver some form of unprecedented miracle in as far as development and a better life for all is concerned. While this mood is commendable, it must be accompanied with a sense of caution, that says citizens still have a responsibility to work hand in hand with the government of their choice post the elections. To vote and sit back, hoping for miraculous change will just not cut it.
Government must still be held accountable. Government must continue to create a conducive environment for citizens to flourish. A robust civil society, a free and independent, unbiased media must hold the government of the day accountable. Citizens must seek out opportunities as presented by a democratic dispensation, as no proverbial manna will fall from the heavens.
We all know too well how euphoria without action can be. Just across the Beit Bridge, when the bell finally rang signaling an end to decades of former President Robert Mugabe’s reign, there was a lot of excitement and euphoria among Zimbabweans inside and outside of Zimbabwe. But because it takes more than an occasion like elections or a change of faces to effect meaningful development, citizens must work hard together with their government, to be true agents of the development they desire.
It is about citizens taking advantage of opportunities presented by the democratic dispensation, starting from the right to franchise to various opportunities aimed at improving the lives of citizens. We cannot deny that despite what may seem like lingering pains as a result of sins from the past, we dare not be despondent. South Africans must continue to seek out and take advantage of opportunities gradually opening up in areas like commerce, agriculture, education and skills development, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, tourism and many others.
Besides, development literature confirms the fact that knowledge is power and wealth. States with good access to knowledge be it scientific, technological or otherwise find themselves in a position of advantage compared to others. Let us therefore all go out and exercise our hard earned right to vote – but let us not forget our responsibility beyond that, as nothing will work, unless we all do!
Sango Ntsaluba is the Executive Chairman of NMT Capital. He is also the Co-founded of SizweNtsalubaGobodo as well as the venture Capital firm WZCapital.