We voted, now we must hold politicians to account

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South Africans went to the polls on May 8 2019 to elect public representatives to serve in the sixth national assembly as well as the provincial legislatures.The 400 Members of Parliament (MPs) and the 63 Members of the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature (MPLs) have now taken their oath of office and have been sworn in.It is commonly understood that the job of these elected representatives is to carry out the promises they made throughout their electoral campaigns as articulated in their political party manifestos.It is now up to us as the citizens who voted them into power to “follow our votes” and begin to hold them to account to the highest degree of ethics, morality, transparency, openness and truthfulness possible. We can achieve this in many ways, starting by requesting that the performance objectives of government be made clear and that these members in the legislature pass laws that assist us to achieve the vision of the country and that they hold the executive to account for the delivery of the goals set, and how public resources are utilised.We can participate in constituency meetings where the public representatives spent time – given off to them apart from their duties in parliament or legislature.In the constituency meetings, these high-ranking public representatives must account on the promises they make and the decisions they have supported in parliament.Social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook have changed the way public participation and stakeholder engagements happen and have enabled our elected representatives to interact with the public in real-time, increasing our access to them and our chances of holding them to account quite instantly.We must use these social media tools to follow our vote.Also, there are websites where people can access the contact details and the names of their designated public representatives.There is now no longer an excuse for allowing public representatives to go unchecked, we all need to ensure that our vote means something.For a while now, NGO Afesis-corplan has argued that accountability involves far more than just the act of voting, it also requires of citizens to be actively involved in post-election processes, such as showing up at community meetings that are aimed at influencing government planning, commenting on the efficacy of those meetings in order to strengthen and improve them, responding to public statements government puts out asking for comments, etc.We can also drum up support by encouraging our friends, family and members of civil or political formations that we are part of to join in these events, as well in support of our positions and requests.Our and other constituent’s presence in these events will send a message to our elected representatives that we are alert, informed and paying attention.This might all sound tedious but in a democracy, elected officials are accountable to the public that elects them.For our democracy to work, we as citizens must play our role in between elections.I am of the view that theWe, the citizens, took our eye off the ball at all levels of governmentphenomenon now dubbed State Capture was allowed to happen and to deepen in the manner now laid bare at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture because we, the citizens took our eye off the ball at all levels of government.It is important to know that when our representatives make decisions, those decisions impact on our lives, they impact on the ability of government to deliver basic services and how and what is being prioritised.We have to ensure that the decisions they make are in our best interest.I argue further that the slight decrease in support for the governing party which now stands at 57.7% at national level is a good thing in that it sends a message to the governing party that the South African voter can and will take away the mandate from this party if it does not shape up.There is therefore a consciousness and an awakening within the governing party, and in turn, throughout all of government, that the status quo cannot hold and that government ought to do things differently in order to hang onto power.This is an opportune time for citizens to get in and demand accountability.This is also an opportune time to try things that fall outside of the legislated mechanisms in forcing a space for accountability.I encourage you to explore all of them and to hold your elected representatives to account.Let your vote mean something!● Zwanga Mukhuthu is a programme officer at Afesiscorplan, an NGO contributing to community-driven development and good local governance in the Eastern Cape. He is a youth and writes in his personal capacity.

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