This assignment seeks to critically discuss the importance of political parties and elections in South Africa. In this we will also get to know the meaning of a political party and elections. The body consists of subtopics such as, elections and youth, functions of elections on a society, the role of political parties in different spheres of government and the role of politics in the democracy of South Africa. The role of political parties will be critically discussed using the 3 spheres of the government.
DEFINITION OF CONCEPTS
According to Emeritus Professor of Political Sciences, Stanford University, California. Author of the Politics of Representation. A political party is an organized group of people who have the same ideology, or who otherwise have the same political positions, and who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected and thereby implement the party’s agenda. They are a defining element of representative democracy. A political party basically, is a group of people. These people come together to contest elections in order to hold power in the government. It is a way to mobilize voters to support common sets of interests, concerns, and goals. The primary role of the political party is to fix the political agenda and policies. So, each party tries to persuade people by claiming their policies are better than those of other parties.
Pollical parties are essential institutions of democracy. By competing in elections, parties offer citizens a choice in government, and while in position they can hold governments accountable. When citizens join political parties, volunteer their time, donate money and vote for their leaders, they are exercising their basic democratic rights. Participation of citizens in political parties offers unique benefits, including opportunities to influence policy choices, choose and engage political leaders, and run for office. However, in some countries political parties do not respect the rights of citizens to participate and are not accountable to voters. NDI supports the development of vibrant, accountable and inclusive multiparty systems that offer citizens meaningful choices and opportunities for political participation.
An election is the process of voting to choose someone to be their political leader or representative in government. In a democracy, the right to vote is the main way most citizens can influence the decisions about how their country is governed. Citizens get their chance when the government decides to hold an election. To win an election, politicians have to persuade people to support them. Each political party needs to identify their policies (plan of action), explaining what they would do if they were elected. Each political party prepares a list of policies that the party promises to carry out if they are elected. This is called a platform. Citizens make their choice in secret by marking a ballot paper and putting this into a ballot box that is not opened until after the polls (casting of votes) have closed. Voters have to decide whether they agree with the platform promises and whether the politicians can be trusted to keep them if they get into power.
THE ROLES OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND ELECTIONS
The history of the Republic of South Africa’s governing political party and elections
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was approved by the constitutional court on 4 December 1996 and took effect on 4 February 1997. Republic of South African’s Constitution is the supreme law of the land that is one of the most progressive in the world and enjoys high acclaim internationally. No other law or government action can supersede the provisions of the constitution.
The elections of April 1994 signalled a major breakthrough in South Africa where white settlers denied the native African majority economic and political power. Only members of the white minority could vote and hold political office.
The most important black organization opposing apartheid was the African National Congress (ANC). In the early 1950’s, the ANC led a non-violent campaign against apartheid, but soon called it off after police arrested and imprisoned thousands of protesters. One of its leaders, Nelson Mandela, a lawyer, was arrested and jailed many times.
Political control was shifted from the white minority to the black majority after 1994 elections which found Nelson Mandela as the first black president of the Republic of South Africa.
Significance of having multiple political parties within the democracy
A multi-party system is a system in which there are more than two pollical parties capable and contesting to absorb the government office. Having a multi-party gives the society an option to belong to a different political party. This prevents the governing of a single party from dictatorship without a challenge. Multi-party system also comes with freedom of speech which enables citizens to crucify bad governance. It also allows political parties to share power in line with proportional representation in the parliament by therefore providing the opposing parties to present checks and balances to the ruling party. As Merriam Webster defines democracy as the government in which the Supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation involving periodically held free elections, elections by play virtual role as they give citizens the freedom to appoint the ruling party they desire through voting and the time difference also gives them the ability to change the party and opt for the one that has their interest in heart.
The role of political parties in different spheres of government
In the country we have 3 spheres of government, namely National government, Provincial government and lastly Local government. Each of these spheres have their own way of operating as each of them may have different leadership from ruling party, for example the ruling party may not be the party that is ruling Gauteng or Limpopo. There is an election that takes place nationwide, this election is to determine the ruling party of the country. These elections are held every 5 years. The spheres of government are autonomous and should not be seen as hierarchical, as the spheres are distinctive, inter-related and inter-dependent (www.etu.org.za), this meaning if one part of the 3 spheres is not operating properly then the rest won’t function properly.
Government is divided into 3 parts. The elected members of political parties form a part the parliament, these members represent the public, by approving policies and laws that are in line with what the political party stands for, these members also monitor the work of the executive and the departments. Then there is the Cabinet (The executive committee), these members are chosen by the CIC (Commander in chief) of the ruling party (The president). The members of the executive aren’t always members of the ruling party, as it is possible to have some members of other political parties to form a part of the executive. These members coordinate the making of policies and laws and oversee implementation by the departments. Then lastly, the departments and public servants who administrate the work for the government and account to the executive (a lot of these members are usually under the local government sphere).
The moment a political party is chosen as the ruling party there are certain functions that they are required to administrate as the ruling party apart from their set out mandate that they were campaigning with. The main function of the ruling party as the government is to make policies and laws about rights and responsibilities of citizens and delivery of public services. The president of the country is elected by the parliament. The pollical parties in the parliament represent the public the public that voted for them so they can make decisions on their behalf. If there is any misconduct from the members of the executive or even from public servants, then it is up to the members of political parties to point them out during a parliament seating (www.etu.org.za).
In each province there is a legislature that is made up of 30-90 members. A Premier is elected by legislature and appoints members of the executive council (MECs). The province also has their own independent ruling party which is usually the one with majority members in the MPL (members of provincial legislature). Political parties use the province that they are ruling to prove to the rest of the citizens that did not vote for them of their capabilities, so that they can have their votes next time out. Their legislature is presented with a budget to carry out public services, this money is the delivered to different local governments for the implementation of public services (www.etu.org.za).
Local government is a sphere where arguably the ruling party is chosen. The whole of South Africa is divided into local municipalities, where in each of them there is a council that is responsible for the decisions and administration of public services. All this work is coordinated by a mayor, who is elected by the council, so the party with the most members have an advantage of choosing a mayor from their political party. The work of the municipality is done by the municipal administration that is headed by the municipal manager and other officials (the manager is responsible for employing staff and coordinating them to implement all programs approved by council). (www.etu.org.za).
The functions of elections on a society
Elections give the citizenry a voice to participate in the decision of the government as they get to choose a representative that will be accountable for their resources. The beliefs, values and traditions of the citizenry are respected and presented in the national sphere.
Elections promote good service standards because the people in charge have to account for the level and quality of public services which are rendered to the citizenry. Also, the elected representatives know what is expected of them.
Elections in democratic country allow everyone from different societies to be treated with courtesy and consideration. The citizenry also gets access to lodge complaints and there are complaints handling systems that are put in place.
“Informed citizens are better citizens”, Nelson Mandela. Through elections citizens the opportunity to be informed about public services that they are entitled to receive. Information is provided in a manner that is most suited to their needs and at intervals most convenient and useful to them (crow 2004)
Through elections, citizenry is redressed. Implying that if the promised standards of services is not delivered, citizens should get an apology, a full explanation and a speedy and efficient remedy. This is whereby officials, or the government recognize their mistakes, apologise, rectify their mistakes and do more than is required or expected.
Citizens vote or elect representatives in hope that they will get value for more money. Officials are responsible for ensuring that the scarce of resources is efficiently utilized to enhance the quality of services. Elections help structure community’s property, because each community will have a leadership structure from different political parties.
Government created the three spheres which play a vital role in the politics and elections, they create an understanding between the citizens and parliament, and people are easy taken care of through these spheres of government. The Republic of South Africa is the highest-ranking law of the land that is one of the most progressive in the world. The political control was shifted from the white minority to the black majority after 1994 elections. Having a multi-party system is more significant as it gives an option to belong to a different political party.
Everyone’s voice must be heard by the superior of the government, that is why it is called the government of the people. Through politics and elections, people or citizens can be against methods that are being used therefore they can also require change to be made. Remember South Africa is also a Republic which is defined as the state in which supreme powers are vested in the citizens and representatives, which means our country became the Republic because of the elections.
- www.academia.edu/40750743/ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF MULTI PARTY SYSTEM https://