Let's now all walk forward together

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The sight of millions of South Africans standing in long queues to vote in the nation’s fifth national and provincial elections will live long in our memories.  Wherever citizens voted throughout the country they would have noticed the enthusiastic and smiling faces of young people, many of whom cast their vote for the very first time.

The pronounced turnout of young voters bodes well for our democracy and flies in the face of those who predicted that the youth would not participate in the political process. 

In years to come people may well look back at this election as the moment when young South Africans raised their voices and demanded to be heard.  Government is proud of our young voters, who along with all others who voted have served to renew and rejuvenate our democracy.

Keamogetswe Seale, a first time voter and resident of Soshanguve said he was pleased that he had taken part in the elections. “I want to be part of those shaping this country,” he said.

Sihle Mkhize, 23, from KwaZulu-Natal said: “It is my first time to vote and I think it’s very important for everyone to exercise this right. I believe it is because of the voting process that we see development in our areas. What people need to do is to approach their elected government if they want any issues addressed.”

Their views were echoed by thousands of young people across the length and breadth of the nation. The refrains of; “If you don’t vote you have no right to complain and voting is my voice” reverberated across all forms of media.   

The election was also notable for the tangible sense of excitement which prevailed on social networks. The hashtags  #ElectionDay  #VotingDay  #GetInked2014 #VoteSA and  #thumbsup were all the rage on Twitter and saw thousands of so called “selfies” posted of thumbs which had been inked. 

Government is heartened by the large voter turnout. Statistics from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) show that more people voted than ever before.  This is indeed a show of confidence in our country and our democracy.  Every person who voted took the future into their hands. We hope the millions of patriots who cast their vote will use the inspiration of the election to become more active citizens.

The time has come for us to harness the drive, resourcefulness and will to win of every South African. Together we can build a stronger and more equitable society where every citizen can prosper and share in the wealth of our country.

That our election took place with minimal incidents is a mark of how far we have come as a nation.  The IEC responded swiftly and decisively to reports of misplaced ballots and other anomalies. We are convinced that these few incidents in no way undermined the overall success, efficiency and credibility of the elections.

The undoubted success of the elections is a reflection of the intense security planning and subsequent operations which proceeded largely unnoticed behind the scenes.

Government prioritised safety and security to ensure that every citizen would be able to vote and make their voice heard. The security of the elections was managed and coordinated through the National Joints Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS).  From their central hub in Pretoria this structure was able to predict and where necessary respond to issues and disturbances on the ground.

While travelling to cast their votes many South Africans may have noticed that offices of the Department of Home Affairs remained open. Over 3000 of its officials were on duty on election day from 7am to 9pm. This insured that citizens could apply for Temporary Identification Certificates, collect their Smart ID cards and green bar-coded IDs to enable them to vote.  About 69 mobile offices were also deployed in areas and communities.

We are convinced that the security and logistic arrangements put in place by government contributed greatly to the smooth running of the elections. However, elections are about choosing public officials who will best represent our interests. By all accounts the 2014 national and provincial elections were credible, and were conducted in an atmosphere of peace and tolerance. We congratulate the Independent Electoral Commission for a job well done.

We also thank the domestic and international observer missions for the monitoring of our electoral process.  While visiting a voting station in Colbyn, Pretoria, the head of the African Union election observer mission and former president of Ghana, John Kufuor commended the "calmness and orderliness" of the voting process.

As the dust starts to settle and the 2014 elections pass into memory, we must begin to look forward as a nation. Now is the time to harness our collective energy so that we can build a better and prosperous society.

Life has changed for the better for millions of people since 1994; however there is still much work to be done.  Our common struggle is to find sustainable ways to overcome the triple threat of poverty, inequality and unemployment.  The National Development Plan is our future roadmap to achieve this goal and government calls on all South Africans to support this plan as we move into the third decade of freedom.

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)


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