Words by Matthew Alexander
Pictures by Siyabonga Mkhasibe, Siphelo Tototo and Leon Tshiza
Like the born frees, democracy has grown up. With 2014 marking two decades of freedom in our country, the time for experimenting is over. Elections are on the way and you better make sure you’re on your mark. Some new parties have joined the race, but how have we benefited from those already in the running? For those of you still fumbling in the dark, LIVE has taken the dom out of being free.
A long walk to freedom
Before 1994, our land was the furthest thing from a democracy. The power did not lie with the people, but with a ruling white minority. People of colour could not vote or have a seat in parliament. If you were not born white, your voice did not matter. Of course we know all that now. But if democracy is “the people’s power”, I have to ask: are we living in a democracy now?
Lately my people don’t feel very empowered. For example: everyone keeps saying that they won’t vote because they haven’t seen change yet. But do we honestly think change comes by sitting at home watching TV while a minority of concerned citizens brave the long queues to participate in the conversations we as a country need to have?
Democracy: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. Originated from the Latin, demokratia, meaning “the people’s power” – Oxford Dictionary
Others say their one vote doesn’t matter, but they’re wrong. With nearly 60% of SA’s population under 35-years-old, and nearly 30% aged 15-34, our votes actually could decide who our next president is. It’s time we as the youth of SA held our government accountable by casting our votes based on informed decisions.
So how do you make an informed decision?
We sometimes fail to see the bigger picture when it comes to political parties: what’s really going on behind the empty promises and flashy rallies. First of all, remember that we’re a new breed of South Africans. We can put a party in power that represents our beliefs as post-apartheid individuals. We don’t have to choose based on colour, but rather on a set of standards – honesty, integrity, and a desire to work for the good of the people would be a nice start.
Ask the right questions
This means paying attention to the news about your party regarding issues such as service delivery, support of education reform and corruption. Some other good questions: How well does your party perform in your area?
How quickly does the party’s municipality respond to queries? How dedicated is the party leader to the specific causes you care about, and what is the party’s record in voting for those things? Does the party understand that it’s meant to work for you, the citizen, not the other way around?
Join our ‘VIP: Voting is Power’ campaign
Do you sigh when you hear the words ‘Elections 2014′? We want to do something about it and fell we need your voices to be heard. Cue our VIP: Voting is Power campaign…Some of our plans for action in 2014 include encouraging you to post your concerns on our dedicated Facebook page, hosting live debates on Twitter and in person, and writing stories or making videos about the real VIPs (people making change) in your community.