2019 South African Elections: Party Politics, Power and Political Participation Panel Discussion

2019 South African Elections: Party Politics, Power and Political Participation Panel Discussion

Date: 15 November 2018
Venue: IJR office, 105 Hatfield Street, Cape Town
Time: 17.30 – 19.30

General elections will be held in South Africa in 2019 to elect a new National Assembly and new provincial legislatures in each province. They will be the sixth elections held since the end of the apartheid system in 1994, 25 years ago. The 2019 elections will take place at a time when South Africa is still grappling with the legacies of its past, while navigating further political, societal and economic challenges arising from global, regional and local events and trends. This includes global political polarisation around elections, such as with the 2016 American, 2017 Kenyan and 2018 Colombian presidential elections, the 2018 Brazilian general elections, and the “Brexit” vote in the United Kingdom.

These election periods highlighted the rise of fake news, the presence and sometimes predominance of extreme ideologies and identity politics in media and discourse, citizen engagement with various forms of political participation other than voting – such as protesting, and in some instances political violence. In the lead up to South Africa’s national elections in 2019, South Africa’s democratic political culture will also be under scrutiny, as much as the outcomes of the elections.

In light of the above, the IJR hosts a panel discussion on South African Elections 2019: Party Politics, Power
and Political Participation to discuss the patterns and trends emerging in this regard, and what the
implications of these trends are, to identify challenges that may arise before and during the election period,
and to consider what needs to be done to overcome these challenges. This includes global political polarisation around elections, such as with the 2016 American, 2017 Kenyan and 2018 Colombian presidential elections, the 2018 Brazilian general elections, and the “Brexit” vote in the United Kingdom. These election periods highlighted the rise
of fake news, the presence and sometimes predominance of extreme ideologies and identity politics in media and discourse, citizen engagement with various forms of political participation other than voting – such as protesting, and in some instances political violence. In the lead up to South Africa’s national elections in 2019, South Africa’s democratic political culture will also be under scrutiny, as much as the outcomes of the elections.

The South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) of 2017 showed certain important findings in terms of
democratic political culture. This included that confidence recorded in public institutions and national leadership has been low, and a comparison over time pointed to a process of systematic erosion. Findings in terms of interpersonal trust showed that South Africans trust their relatives more than any other grouping or social formation in society. This is not surprising, but holds implications in an environment in which South Africans not only have low levels of trust in other groups, but also in public institutions that preside over society. When combined with economic volatility / recession, it poses significant challenges for reconciliation and broader social cohesion processes. In addition, the SARB showed low levels of trust in foreigners living in South Africa – which needs urgent attention, as this is coupled with about 4 in 10 South Africans reporting that they would prevent people from other African countries from getting access to certain services in 2017. Trust in institutions, leadership and fellow citizens are critical components of a vibrant democratic political culture. Their presence or absence offers a reflection of the extent to which citizens feel excluded or included from the system and connected to or disconnected from one another.

The above findings are coupled with low levels of political efficacy – in particular voting efficacy, with more than half of respondents disagreeing with the notion that voting constitutes a meaningful political activity, and 60% agreeing that elected leaders do not keep in touch with people. In addition, about 26% of South Africans do not have a long-term affiliation with any political party – which could mean they keep an open mind about who to vote for, but coupled with low voting efficacy could affect voter turnout. South Africans, nevertheless, are taking part in various other forms of activism and political participation to keep leaders and institutions accountable. Concerning, however, is that the reported propensity to use violence or force for political causes is on the rise. As far as access to, and trust of, news sources is concerned, the SABC continues to be a trusted institution, while South Africans mainly access political information and news from television and radio news. This does not however mean that social media does / will not have an agenda setting presence during and before the 2019 election period.

Panel members: 

Dr Collette Schulz-Herzenberg (Stellenbosch University)

Ms Dominique Dryding (Afrobarometer)

Ms Janine Ogle (My Vote Counts)

Ms Thandi Smith (Media Monitoring Africa)

Dr Nomsa Masuku (IEC) 

 

 

By | 2018-11-15T10:21:47+00:00 November 1st, 2018|Categories: Uncategorised|