"Let's play our part for a peaceful poll"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Today, millions of South Africans will cast their votes in the fifth democratic elections since 1994. Government has declared this day a special public holiday to ensure that all eligible voters have sufficient time to cast their votes. This year’s election is special for few reasons; it is the first time the youngsters born after 1994 will be able to vote. It also coincides with the country celebrating 20 Years of Freedom.

The increase in both the number of people who registered to vote and political parties contesting the election is testament to our vibrant and functioning democracy. It proves that people want the country to succeed and are determined to have a say how in our country is governed. Active voter participation is central to the success of a well-functioning democracy. 

Government is convinced that South Africans in their millions will visit their local polling station to cast their vote. We are a fast maturing democracy, however we should never take this hard won right to vote for granted. The right to vote was not free; it was won through untold sacrifice. Together, let us honour and build on the legacy of courageous leaders such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Oliver Reginald Tambo, Nelson Mandela and countless other ordinary people who sacrificed their lives for liberation and democracy.

Addressing thousands of people who gathered at the Union Building in commemoration of the 2014 Freedom Day Celebrations, President Jacob Zuma stated: “The precious right to vote was gained through relentless struggles and sacrifices. Therefore, on the 7th of May, let us go out in our millions to vote and celebrate our hard won freedom and democracy. Let us vote to consolidate democracy and all the achievements of our young nation. And, as we did in 1994 and in subsequent elections, let us deliver peaceful, free and fair elections.”

Government is committed to ensuring a peaceful and free and fair election. Government has instructed the South African Police Service to act swiftly and decisively against anyone who seeks to disrupt elections. A team of crime prevention and security cluster officials visited potential trouble-spots around the country ahead of the elections to ensure that preparations are in place.

Although all plans are in place to ensure a peaceful and free and fair election, it is also incumbent on citizens to play their part. Each one of us has a role to play in ensuring that the elections take place in an atmosphere of political tolerance and peace. Our nation has held several peaceful elections since 1994, and we are confident that the spirit of freedom and democracy will prevail once more.

The Southern African Development Community Electoral Observation Mission has expressed its satisfaction with the country’s readiness for the elections. The acting head of the SADC Electoral Observer Mission, Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa said: “We have no doubt that this atmosphere of peace that exists before the elections will continue to hold during and after the elections.”

However, our role as citizens does not begin and end with voting. Every citizen has a duty to uphold and contribute to our democracy. Together let us work to find common solutions to the issues that concern us so that the vision of a better life for all becomes a reality.

Our Constitutional democracy encourages citizens to hold their public representatives to account. Every one of us should scrutinise government to ensure that services are delivered fairly. Trough public participation all of us can ensure that government delivers on its promises and is held to account.

Today’s elections demonstrate just how far our country has come since 1994. Our nation has been transformed, the oppression and tyranny which defined our past has been swept aside, and South Africa is indeed a better place to live.

We are widely recognised as having the most progressive constitution in the world. Together with a number of independent and democratic institutions created to guard our freedoms, we have deepened our democracy and produced an environment where the culture of human rights is respected.

“We gained equal citizenship in the land of our birth. We gained the rights to life, equality, freedom of movement, speech and association, worker rights, children’s rights and women’s rights.” President Jacob Zuma said.

We must never take these achievements for granted: they should serve as a timeless reminder of what has been achieved.

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


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