If you don’t vote you lose your right to complain about government!

If you don’t vote you lose your right to complain about government!

Terence Pillay believes the only way to effect real change in the country is at the polls.


It’s finally here – the day when South Africans can make their voices heard loudly and proudly at the polls. And because we’re such a frugal nation, without corruption (insert sarcasm here), what we’ve done is very strategically combined our provincial and national elections into one day. So, essentially, in terms of the law, we’re actually running two elections but on the same day and at the same time – and people get to vote twice – for national and provincial.

And it’s very, very important for people to vote because on the 27th of April we celebrated Freedom Day and that freedom was hard won. Hundreds of years of colonialism and oppression where not everyone in this country had the right to vote and the freedom to do so was finally won. And every South African should respect this and exercise that right.

This is the moral imperative. It’s not something that was a given in this country. And even if you go back in history, women didn’t always have the right to vote so it’s a right that was fought for and for which people lost their lives and so we shouldn’t be flippant about it.

So there’s this historical imperative to do it but in recent years I’ve read that voter turnout, generally, has not been great. There seems to be a lot of voter apathy and people are feeling disillusioned by the system – many ask, 

“You vote, and even though you vote, what difference does it make?”

I heard someone say that more people voted for Idols than in the last general election, but I find that a little hard to believe. There are fifty million people in this country and if voter turnout was fifty percent, maybe, that’s twenty-five million people. And if you take the voting age, which is eighteen years old and up, that’s still a good many million people who show up.   

So the Idols votes will include people who are under eighteen and you have to take it as a proportion of the number of people who are eligible to vote. In Idols, any three-year-old with their mother’s smartphone and a fibre connection can vote. That’s totally different. 

And also, with Idols you can vote multiple times so when Idols announces the stats and says they received a hundred million votes, that’s because Suzie down the road sat there all weekend on her dad’s cellphone, voting a hundred and fifty times for the singer she thought was the cutest. In the elections, you only get one chance, one vote for the next five years.

So I skimmed through a number of the manifestos – all very well designed and very pretty, but all with a lot of promises that I doubt will be delivered on.

I am very curious, though, to see the results of this election. I have to say that people seem to be losing confidence in the ruling party in particular their election list candidates that they’ve put forward. There seems to be some questionable characters on that list.

But I’m talking about why people should vote and not who they should vote for and at the end of the day, you need to make your own choices based on the information you have. And it’s about what’s important to you. What’s important to me may be different to what’s important to you.

So I’m fortunate in that I have a job, I have a good education, I have a home, I have land and so the things that are important to me are things like property rights, a good education system for my children, I pay a lot of tax and a lot of rates so I want to see that the money I’m contributing is being used effectively. Somebody who has poor education, no job, no skills, no land – what’s important to them will be different and I respect that it’s different and they will, therefore, vote differently to me.

Different parties stand for different things and I totally respect that for, example, the EFF is going into the election on a land ticket because that is an important issue in this country. And so we need to be objective about these things and respect that people come from different positions, they have different priorities and so different political parties will speak to those different priorities and we should all respect that and respect the outcome.

My first experience of voting was amazing. It was also my first experience of voting generally. I was young and full of positivity for the country and incredibly idealistic and I could finally cast my vote for Nelson Mandela, because he was free. These says however, I mull over where I place my X a lot more before I vote.

So weigh your options, inform yourself and then make your way to the polls. But whatever you do, you absolutely must make your way to the polls and make your mark. Otherwise, you forfeit your right to complain about the elected government.

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts.  

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