Make your mark

This week, South Africans will have the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidates in the municipal elections.

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It is a chance for each South African to express confidence or displeasure with the way in which his or her town or city is being run.

The polls suggest that this round of local government elections might present a pivotal point in our young democracy if power slips away from the ANC in hotly contested metros like Tshwane, the Nelson Mandela Bay and the City of Johannesburg.

Fuelled by polling results in their favour and the party’s performance in the metros listed above in the previous national elections, the DA has been fiercely campaigning to win votes in these municipalities. Not a day has gone by in the past few weeks when I failed to receive a text message, email or call from the DA urging me to vote for them.

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One of the text messages sent by the DA, saying that voting for smaller opposition parties was a waste of a good vote, led to the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) lodging an official complaint against the party with the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) for what it considered a breach of the electoral code of conduct through “inaccurate” campaign claims.

At a press conference, FF Plus leader, Pieter Mulder, said that the DA’s claim was simply untrue. The DA, on the other hand, had a sound argument for why a vote for a ward councillor, who was representing a party with a small support base, might “go to waste”.

Despite the DA’s reasoning, telling people that they should vote strategically, even if it means not voting for the party or person whose manifesto they most support, is thoroughly undemocratic.

Pieter Mulder rightly states in the FF Plus’s objection to the DA’s ‘don’t-waste-your-vote’ campaign, in terms of the Constitution, that the results of local government elections need to be largely proportional.

I believe my vote should be based on past performance rather than on election promises. If your municipality is being well-managed, vote to keep the current leadership in power, if it is poorly run, vote for a change in leadership.

The latest SA Consumer Satisfaction Index showed that municipalities were falling dismally short of their citizens’ expectations. According to this independent study, which measured satisfaction among residents of municipal services across eight of the largest metros, Cape Town maintained its previous leadership position, scoring significantly higher than the average (59,5 out of 100) at 70,3 out of 100.

The worst-performing municipalities were Johannesburg at 54,7, Nelson Mandela Bay at 54, Mangaung at 52,9 and Buffalo City at 47,6.

As a farmer, make sure that the party and candidate you choose not only have a plan for filling up potholes and removing refuse, but are aware and determined to respond to the challenges unique to agriculture.