Commemorating Freedom Day: Celebrating the Fundamental Right to Vote

26 April 2023 ,  Neo Madlala 469
In the aftermath of an oppressive apartheid system, South Africa opted for a path of peace and reconciliation to pave the way towards a brighter future. The architecture they chose was that of a Constitutional Democracy - a system designed to ensure that every citizen has equal rights, opportunities, and protections under the law. Rather than seeking retribution, the country's leaders sought to build a better South Africa for all who live in it. This article explores the significance of a Constitutional Democracy and how it has helped shape the country's identity.

It is easy for us to just focus on the negative about our country. This is intensified by the fact that we live through our struggles daily, from loadshedding to various other socio-economic challenges. Despite our challenges, the South African spirit remains undefeated, we persevere through our struggles and we continue to achieve what many think is impossible.

The 27th of April 2023 marks the 29th anniversary of our country’s beautiful Constitutional democracy when in 1994 our country held its first democratic general election under the interim Constitution. Since 1994, South Africa has had 5 democratic general elections, with all eligible citizens exercising their democratic right to vote, should they choose. The upcoming general elections of 2030 have been touted as the most significant elections in our maturing democracy. 

Our Courts have continued to be a vanguard of our Constitutional democracy and have handed down 2 significant judgments that will greatly impact the 2024 elections and elections to come.

The first judgment was handed down in 2018 in the matter of My Vote Counts NPC v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Another [2018] ZACC17. In this matter, the Constitutional Court confirmed the Order of the Western Cape High Court and found that for the general public to make an informed decision at the ballot box, information relating to the funding of candidates must be disclosed to the public. Although Parliament was already in the process of drafting the Political Party Funding Act of 2018, the Court in its judgment deepened our understanding of our right to vote as enshrined in section 19 of the Constitution.
The second judgment was even more controversial but also of great importance. In 2020 and in the matter of New Nation Movement NPC & Others v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others [2020] ZACC 11, the Constitutional Court declared the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 unconstitutional to the extent that it prohibited adult citizens from standing as candidates for National and Provincial elections unless such adult is representing a political party. This led to the Electoral Amendment Bill which the President signed into law on 20 April 2023. The amendment to the Act will allow adult citizens to stand as independent candidates for National and Provincial elections. Although the Bill has its teething issues, it represents a step in the right direction for a maturing democracy like ours.

The Constitution continues to be our pillar, the principal tool that defines who we are as a nation and what we aspire to be. Not only are our Courts a critical separate arm of the State, holding our elected executive and legislators accountable to the people, but also play a vital educational role in deepening our understanding of the Constitution and the rights it espouses. We should not only protect the integrity of the Courts but also celebrate their magnificence.

As South Africans, we owe it to ourselves and to those who fought tirelessly for our democracy to continue promoting, protecting, and defending our constitutional right to vote. It is through active participation in our democratic processes that we can ensure that the promise of a better future is kept alive. So let us not take our hard-won freedoms for granted, but rather let us continue to exercise our right to vote and shape the future of our nation together!

Disclaimer: This article is the personal opinion/view of the author(s) and is not necessarily that of the firm. The content is provided for information only and should not be seen as an exact or complete exposition of the law. Accordingly, no reliance should be placed on the content for any reason whatsoever and no action should be taken on the basis thereof unless its application and accuracy have been confirmed by a legal advisor. The firm and author(s) cannot be held liable for any prejudice or damage resulting from action taken on the basis of this content without further written confirmation by the author(s).
Related Expertise: Dispute Resolution
Tags: Freedom Day, Vote