During the struggle many people died so we could vote in democratic elections. To honour their memory we should use our votes responsibly and not allow politicians to manipulate our emotions with empty promises.
Whether we are voting in national, provincial or local elections, we should ensure that the political parties for which we vote respect the signposts of democracy and the provisions of the constitution. For example, to achieve this:
1. You should not sell your vote every five years for a free meal, a T-shirt or a cap or beret. Feel free to collect as many “freebies” as you want, but when you are in the voting booth you do not owe anyone anything, and are free to vote for the party you think is the best.
2. You should become informed by attending as many political rallies and meetings as you can – but when you are in the voting booth your vote is your secret, and you are free to choose whom to vote for – nobody can force you to vote for them.
3. You should judge politicians by what they do – not what they say. Most political parties have participated in some form of government at national, provincial or local level, so you should be able to judge them on their record and decide whom to want to vote for.
A new edition of Democracy for All will be produced by Street Law South Africa, and an international edition in collaboration with Street Law Incorporated in the US during this year. Here are 20 questions to help you to decide whether political parties are respecting the signposts of democracy and the constitution:
1. Has the party’s policies and actions made you better off than five years ago?
2. Has the party done what it promised to do five years ago?
3. Does the party discipline, suspend and expel corrupt leaders and officials?
4. Does the party allow its leaders and officials to waste the tax payer’s money on unnecessary expenditure that benefits only such leaders and officials?
5. Does the lifestyle of the party leaders and officials demonstrate a genuine concern for the plight of poor and unemployed people in the country?
6. Does the party safeguard human rights and the constitution by respecting the decisions of the courts, the public protector and the South African Human Rights Commission?
7. Has the party managed to reduce crime in your area where it is in a position to do so?
8. Does the party practice transparency by allowing people to know who funds it?
9. Does the party try to cover up when its leaders and officials are accused of corruption?
10. Are the party’s leaders and officials approachable and responsive to communities who wish to raise concerns with them?
11. Does the party put its interests before the interests of the country or the communities where it operates?
12. Has the party’s policies and practices increased employment opportunities where it is in a position to do so?
13. Does the party ensure that people and communities are served by competent and caring public officials?
14. Does the party advance the interests of all South Africans or just a particular section of South African society?
15. Does the party allow its leaders and officials to be held accountable by the law enforcement organs of the state such as the SAPS, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority?
16. Does the party allow other parties to campaign freely in areas where its supporters are in a majority?
17. Does the party accept the election results in parts of the country where it loses after free and fair elections have been held?
18. Does the party promote access to information about failures in good governance?
19. Do the party and its leadership represent a reasonable cross-section of South African society?
20. Does the party ensure that women are properly represented in its leadership and government positions?
The party that is most respectful of the signposts for democracy and the constitution is the party that receives the most “yes” replies to the above questions.
You can decide for yourself whether you wish to vote for it – the choice is yours.
Professor David McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
IMAGE CREDITS: http://www.transportworldafrica.co.za/