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Stop kvetching, start voting

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Just seven weeks remain until the national and provincial elections, the sixth since the holding of the first all-inclusive elections that launched our non-racial democracy. Terms like “watershed” and “at a crossroads” are commonly bandied about during election season, but for South Africa this time round, they really do ring true to an extent perhaps never seen over the past 30 years.

Since 2009, one of the flagship initiatives of the Board has been its #MakeUsCount pre-election awareness and education campaign. These are aimed at getting community members to identify with and participate in the democratic process, from ensuring that they are registered on the voters roll to engaging with the competing parties and making sure to come out to vote on polling day. We’re particularly proud of the role played by the interfaith and multinational observer teams we have run over the past 15 years to assist the Independent Electoral Commission in ensuring that the elections are free and fair, as well as in practical, logistical areas where required.

The message we tirelessly seek to push during these times is that elections provide ordinary citizens with the opportunity – indeed even the duty – to take their future and that of their society into their own hands. All too often, people feel voiceless and disempowered, but by exercising their right to choose those who will govern them, every one of them is able to make a difference. This is something we are trying hard to convey to our own community. Perhaps never before has it been so necessary to overcome the feelings of disillusionment and hopelessness and make ourselves heard as South African Jewish voters. This year’s #MakeUsCount campaign commenced as usual with a voter-registration drive aimed at getting first-time voters to register and for those already on the roll to check that their details were correct and up to date. As one of our taglines for this put it, “You can’t kvetch until you check.” Our efforts have extended to reaching out to South African citizens living abroad, who while no longer resident in the country, are still able to participate in choosing their leaders.

With the registration process now behind us, we’re looking to involve the community in learning about the various competing parties to enable them to make an informed choice on election day. In Johannesburg in coming weeks, we’ll be arranging what will be billed as an ‘Election Indaba’ that provides a platform for the various parties to engage with the community and present their positions on the core issues of the day. In Cape Town, the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies will seek to repeat its previous success in working with eNCA to hold a televised multiparty debate, scheduled for 19 May. In addition to the usual questions of service delivery, safety, and security, foreign policy will be a major topic for debate this time round.

For regular updates on what’s happening and upcoming events, I encourage everyone to go onto our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter/X accounts.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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