Can we (please) pick better leaders in the 2024 elections?

Every vote has the potential to change the trajectory the country is on.

We must vote even if doing so means voting against a party that was instrumental in ushering in democracy, says the author, because if the rational individual does not vote, the irrational ones will decide the outcome. Image: AdobeStock

For some readers, the question in the title may be absurd. Have we not learned that even though we vote for a party, ultimately, it decides who it deploys to the government?

We are months away from 2024, a crucial year given the national elections, which may be the most significant since democracy. A week ago, I took my youngest niece to lunch, a generation Z (Gen Z) young woman who, like her peers, has no interest in voting.



I tried to impress upon her that if we do not assume whatever responsibility we have as members of society, a craftier interest group with nefarious intentions will assume them for us. Once in power, they will seek to maintain it by all means unless they are held to account by the people.

If the past voter turnout has taught us anything, it’s that the majority of the voting-age population does not vote. It used to be that winners would emerge outright. However, recent elections worldwide have shown that many results are so close that the probability of a tie exists. In that case, every vote has the potential to change the result.

While I certainly empathise with the youth and middle class who are cynical about voting, I remain committed to it. I refuse to forfeit this earned right.

There is a real prospect that the ANC will retain power and continue to underperform – dragged down by corrupt kleptocrats and opportunistic politicians who will do anything to remain in power.

There is also a chance that a new form of government might emerge, one of coalitions where the current governing party is no longer the driver. The question is, were such an outcome to occur, would the ANC and its allies accept the defeat at the hands of the voters? That remains to be seen.


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The decline in the quality of government, the merit of the individuals doing the leading, the services to the public, and the state of the economy make next year’s election even more critical.

Furthermore, the sharp ascendance of social unrest and conflict as basic service delivery collapses and the cost of living becomes exorbitant cannot be overlooked when voting. There is a rise of an acute sense of crisis – extreme growth in youth unemployment, poverty, violence and breakdown of essential service infrastructure, job losses and public spending that has not effectively fulfilled its intended purpose.

Through it all, we have seen politicians brazenly get away with corrupt activities.

Hence, it is rational to vote. Sacrifices were made in order for some of us to be able to vote. We have to vote even when marking that ballot means voting against a party that was instrumental in ushering in democracy. Perhaps it would be a radical act for any rational individual who is aware that the interest of society at that moment will be better served than prioritising one’s political choice.

Coalitions are scary, but vote anyway …

In the 2024 elections, your vote will play an increasingly significant role in the type of government we wish to bestow upon the next generation, the kind of society we want to live in, and the collaboration we want to rely on to solve the pressing challenges.



Therefore, while the notion of coalitions might be scary and even be off-putting (understandably so, given recent examples in Gauteng) to some readers, it is instructive to remember that voting is one major responsibility each South African has. We are duty-bound to cast our ballot.

Maintaining democracy through a multi-party coalition might do the country good. For one, it will keep different factions on their toes. They will inevitably – or should – want to serve the people better. It will also bring a greater diversity of views together; the chosen leaders will need to become adept at compromising if they are to make progress, and they will want to keep each other in check.

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Perhaps next year’s elections will also lay bare what is known – the distance between voters and the outcomes of the decisions. By that, I mean the final representatives who get to lead government.

It is possible that out of the 2024 elections, South Africans will come to make more deliberate and less ideological voting decisions, even when it includes a compromise as they find themselves compelled to choose the lesser of the two evils. Of course, I am aware that politicians are delusional and continue with their wishful thinking; hence, some still harp on about a socialist order or are answering to plutocrats who direct government policy for self-interest.


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We know what the past decade has been like – kleptocratic leaders who have plunged the country into its current state, including failing to promote growth and advance development policies. The past few years have also seen things fall apart; look at infrastructure and state-owned enterprises, governance, and the quality of the public service.

Some might say the thoughts shared in this article are not compelling enough to make them want to vote. They may be right. However, I remind you that if the rational individual does not vote, the irrational one will decide the outcome.

William Murphy

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