You simply must vote on 1 November - vote tactical, even if disillusioned. On 1 November, South African voters will have the opportunity to elect councils for all district, metropolitan and local municipalities across the country. This is YOUR chance to help change the country. While OUTA remains a non-political organisation, we recognise that this is a crucial time for all citizens to consider their options and vote  ̶  even if they are reluctant to vote for any party or candidate because they are not sold on the options available. 

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) the lead-up to the election has been less than ideal. It was a fiasco of missed candidate list deadlines, disputes and appeals to the Independent Electoral Commission and courts before a decision was taken to have the elections on 1 November.

Voter turnout at these crucial upcoming elections is likely to be impacted negatively. Not only by the Covid-19 pandemic, but more worryingly by the growing disinterest in political party posturing that – for many – appears to leave all options undesirable. Endless, empty promises and a dearth of political parties adds more mud to the water. It’s murky, messy and voters might be forgiven if they used the excuse of “I’m not voting because there’s nobody I like”. 

Personally, I don’t believe this is a valid reason to stay away from the polls next month.

By not voting, a lower turnout leads to less representative politics. Low voter turnout means that people who might not have won and probably shouldn’t be in a position of power, get elected. The declining voter turnout has a large role to play in problems that beset us as a nation. In many cases, it’s also the reason why our towns and cities have been trashed by people who shouldn’t be running them.

Not voting should not be an option for any person who cares about the places and environments they live in. Everyone should be encouraged to don their masks and get out there and vote, even if it means voting tactically.

Tactical (or strategic) voting occurs when a voter supports another candidate more strongly than their sincere preference, with a view to preventing an undesirable outcome. Undesirable outcomes are those which place the worst person or party in charge of your municipal affairs. In such a case, you may wish to vote for one party or person, but doing so may simply weaken the votes for what could be the best option to reduce or steal the power away from the ‘undesirable outcome’ option. 

You may like a certain political party on a national level, but in your ward someone else from another party might resonate more closely with your outlook and desired solutions for your municipality.

When voting, we should remind ourselves of the dire situation that most of our municipalities are in or fast moving toward. Collectively, people have the power to change that, but only when more people get out there and vote and do so with their conscience. Find out what your candidate options are and what they stand for as outlined in their election manifestos. 

Some suggest that an alternative is to spoil one’s vote when not sure who to vote for. The flawed assumption behind this is that if the spoilt vote count is high enough, this might send a message to authorities that citizens are unhappy with the political choices they have. But that’s ludicrous, as those who win and gain control couldn’t give two hoots about the spoilt vote percentage. In fact, they will love you for it. 

Spoiling your vote should not even be a last resort.  We urge you to consider your voting options and vote tactfully, if need be, but just VOTE. It’s really that simple.

The often-heard excuse that “my vote won’t make any difference” is a worrying one. How often have we seen a ward being won by a handful of votes? Or even how an extra proportional representative seat could have been won by a party if they only had a few more votes?  

Imagine if everyone felt their vote was not important enough to change the outcome and no one rocked up at the polling station? Tyree Scott (a US labour rights activist) once said: “The people who made the biggest mistake, are those who did nothing, because they felt they could only do a little”.

If we are going to fix our towns and cities, we need to become more active as citizens, and it starts with voting. The worst option is doing nothing. And those who choose to do nothing, have no right to complain about the state of their towns and neighbourhoods, ever again.

Wayne Duvenage