VOTING YOUR HOPES, NOT YOUR FEARS: Local Elections, Party Politics and Small beginnings. 

VOTING YOUR HOPES, NOT YOUR FEARS: Local Elections, Party Politics and Small beginnings. 

Written for DiaLOGOS by Cheryllyn Dudley (Former Member of Parliament, Political Analyst and Author)

Local elections are primarily about local issues and basic services, so the need to be in touch with the real challenges facing specific communities is a priority.  Independent candidates and Local parties should therefore feature more significantly at local elections. All parties however have the opportunity to field candidates who are known in their communities and are trusted to represent their communities’ interests. 

In the early days of democracy, we saw the results of local elections broadly follow those of national and provincial elections as South Africans identified passionately with the politics of those who played a role for or against the struggle and the dismantling of apartheid.  Since then we have seen evidence of local parties featuring but not significantly and larger parties holding their ground to a large degree.

The 2021 local election is going to be interesting as people’s dissatisfaction is more and more aimed at those they have previously trusted. This should create opportunities for smaller parties and independents.  People however are unpredictable.  The only thing for certain is that change is possible and while change in itself is no guarantee that things will be better hope can be a powerful step in the right direction.

Too often our vote is more about voting ‘against’ something than voting ‘for’ something or someone.  On 1 November, there will be no shortage of parties and independents to choose from with 325 political parties contesting the local government election in SA alongside more than 1,700 independent candidates.

Some of the parties have a track record, having been in Parliament and in councils around the country over the years – all working to gain your vote. They have name recognition, established processes, constituencies, and experience. While many of the ‘new kids’ on the block may have much to learn, they will hopefully be energetic and enthusiastic in their efforts. Many of course will have been around in other party structures.

While there is no visible evidence that any of the existing parties will increase their support significantly at this election, I am inclined to think their losses will be proportional and the top 3 in the different municipalities will still rank similarly.  The impact of new parties and Independents, in my view is likely to be seen in a loss of votes for existing parties across the board but the impact will be more visible in smaller existing parties.

The challenges these smaller parties have faced over the years range from almost non-existent funding to a reputation of being exclusive rather than inclusive on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity. New parties would do well to learn from those who have ‘been there and done that’ as they enthusiastically stake their claim and work toward making an impact over the longer term. The new kids on the block being Action SA, OSA and the Patriotic Alliance to name just a few.

Smaller parties that have been part of formal politics for quite some time include the Freedom Front plus, the IFP for more than 45 years, the ACDP since the 1994 elections, the UDM from 1995, the NFP (formed out of the IFP) with a 10 year track record and the AIC since 2006.

The collective experiences of the older, parties, all in all, testify to how difficult it is to create a coalition outside of ethnic, regional or religious identities. And how tricky it is to manage the internal contestation that multi-constituency parties suffer, as regularly evidenced in both the ANC and the DA.  It may be that the structural problems, as revealed by the older parties, large and small, demonstrates how unlikely it is that any of the new players will make much of an impact on our politics in the short to medium term.  Making this a time to consider playing the long game, voting for the future you want and not just against the present realities.

In these November local government elections (LGE), 922 candidates standing are 24 or younger, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) and yet voter registration for the LGE is lowest among young people. IEC figures show that more than 13 million South Africans who are eligible to vote have not registered and that about 60% of these 13 million are below the age of 29.  I am inclined to see a need for us to encourage each other to stay hopeful and to get to the polling station to vote.

 You can message your ID number to 32810 to confirm your voting status and which voting station you are required to vote at. On voting day you will have 2 or 3 ballot papers before you. In a city/town you will vote for the candidate of your choice and separately for the party of your choice. In a district area you will have a third ballot paper to vote for the district party of your choice.

The words, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10, come to mind.

The bottom line for us as believers is to vote for your hopes, not your fears

To pray for the elections we invite you to visit Jericho Wall International Prayer Network for Prayer Guidelines


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