Assessing the state of Election Readiness in Gauteng: Towards fostering social cohesion and preventing violence

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By ACTION Support Centre (ASC)

The success of a democracy as an embodiment of the will and aspirations of a country’s people hinges greatly on continued participation by stakeholders at every level. Participatory democracy, in turn, draws its sustenance from ordinary people’s knowledge regarding the inner workings of the political system. The populace is only able to make substantive contributions to the growth of democracy when elections are in a violence free environment. Where they have a sense of the fullness of the freedom to exercise their political rights.

On 17th May 2024, ACTION Support Centre hosted an election readiness dialogue to strengthen mechanisms for early detection and mitigation of election-related tensions and conflicts, foster inclusive civic participation and engagement among diverse communities and promote dialogue, tolerance, and understanding among political stakeholders and communities.

The dialogue was hosted in Gauteng as the province looms large in South Africa’s democratic experiment as both the country’s economic heartbeat and a region that forms a large electoral block in elections. The dialogue also focused on enhancing the capacity of relevant stakeholders in Gauteng to prevent and respond to election-related violence.

Here the stakes are heightened and there is fierce competition among parties for its lucrative voter pool. Readiness to deliver a free and fair election in this context requires strategies that promote social cohesion. This is especially true for Guteng, where cultural and ethnic diversity, poverty and inequality, can exacerbate tensions that spill over into the political sphere.

The Importance of Inclusive Stakeholder Dialogue

The freedom with which people from all walks of life have engaged on various issues of national importance during the 2024 electoral period has largely been due to the ease with which dialogue was possible. True to its form as an exemplary standard bearer for democracy in the African continent, South Africa created a space for the wide expression of often divergent views.

As a result, this dialogue formed part of a multi-faceted approach to creating a platform for different contestants and parties to canvass their views. It also presented an opportunity for all stakeholders to collectively navigate novel complexities in the political system.

In a province where the ingredients for social discord that could lead to violence already exists in the form of systemic socioeconomic factor, vigilance is paramount. Proactive measures that continue promoting dialogue, tolerance, and understanding among political stakeholders and communities are vital. And these should not only focus on the act of ballot casting. The momentum needs to be carried over deep into the period after the seventh administration is constituted. Fostering social cohesion and deepening participatory democracy are two sides of the same coin. They both extend beyond the ballot.