Voting is Only the Start of a Process of Civic Engagement
Of all the spheres of government, the closest to the masses is the local one found at municipal level.
Unlike with the national parliament and the provincial legislatures where party lists determine membership, municipal councils are made of councillors from geographically demarcated wards.
In the South African setting, a councillor is an important elected public official, who becomes a direct representative of a ward as a constituency.
The common refrain, ‘think globally, act locally’, speaks directly to us and its expression can be found in our civic duty towards the immediate community.
It is our duty to ensure that the local councils are made up of people who are honest, active and concerned enough to better the living standards of our people. We have the responsibility to ensure that a right candidate is elected to lead, represent, manage the delivery of essential services to our areas.
As we participate in this democratic dispensation, Islamic scholars have advised that it is permissible to vote for a candidate that is likely going to serve the common good of humanity. Naturally, such candidates would also not oppose the practise of Islam, and, would stand opposed to any form of oppression.
Councillors that are capable and dedicated to their work would be instrumental in bringing about changes that will prove crucial in the improvement of the lives of the people.
The principle of subsidiarity that has informed the country’s decentralisation policy allows for decisions to be taken at the local level where they impact those concerned most.
It follows then that matters that can be handled at a local level such as the ward or a council, are to an extent, limited by the local structure’s competencies in managing resources with transparency and accountability as well as the level of public engagement.
From service delivery point of view, in areas such as housing, education, primary healthcare, social cohesion, recreational amenities, utilities and secure neighbourhoods, there is great scope to make a turnaround in matters that affect us, on a daily basis.
The councillors we shall be electing on 3rd August 2016, should be of the calibre that can spearhead the work of their respective wards and, hence, councils, in order to benefit the people most.
It is important to remember that our responsibility does not end with casting the ballot on the election day. Rather, we should continuously engage our elected officials, complementing their efforts and asserting the mandate we give them by rendering appropriate support to our community projects and initiatives.
In a year when the election in going to be closely contested, narrow margins will matter. Every single vote is therefore significant. Apathy to the importance of a single vote will lead to undeserving candidates carrying the day.
We urge all to exercise the power to vote not only as a right but also a duty that will ensure that those that get elected fit the criteria that we have outlined as above.
Governance and accountability deepen with an engaged electorate. An engaged electorate goes to vote at the polls!