Municipal transformation depends on voters, so what to do?


Municipal transformation depends on voters, so what to do?

For a sea change, the electorate must be able to participate, want to do so and feel its participation matters

Sethulego Matebesi

When a catastrophic accident cuts the first manned mission to Jupiter’s moons short in the Astronaut: The Last Push, a 2012 US science-fiction film, Michael Forrest, the sole remaining astronaut, must endure the three-year return trip to Earth alone. Similarly, how will the next five-year journey of local governance in SA manifest itself? Again, I believe the responses from citizens will vary widely — from widespread cynicism to hope for a better future and from distrust of a dysfunctional system to the belief that service delivery will improve.

In an all too familiar scenario, political-party campaigns have been littered with promises of how they best represent and advance voters’ interests. In doing so, two helpful facts about these campaigns emerge. The first is that the ANC, DA, EFF and FF+ have realised local contexts differ significantly and have framed their messages accordingly. A cursory glance at the broadcastings of these customised campaigns reveals they aim to provide a safe psychological outlet for community-level concerns. The second is that, in general, the election messaging and adverts of the ANC ranged from apologies to bold statements about who wields power to change the face of local governance. Opposition parties focused on improving the local government system, notorious for disregarding citizens’ needs, and providing an active voice for the voiceless. 

And guess what? Political parties and candidates may mobilise constituencies as much as they can. However, the next five years require local governance to make a significant departure from its status of dysfunctionality to a competent, legitimate political institution that produces satisfactory political outcomes. This legislative and moral mandate depends on participation in elections. ..

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