MobiSAM on the right side of History
By Leroy Maisiri: Communications and Citizen Engagement Officer
As a new member of the MobiSAM team, I have tried to spend the last few weeks absorbing as much as I possibly can so as to make a truly meaningful contribution. While navigating through the meetings, write ups and more meetings I couldn’t help but fall in love with what MobiSAM is trying to do. The question then immediately became what does MobiSAM mean to me. This is the question I hope all residents of Makana start off with.
This year we witnessed another supposedly riveting municipal election take place across the country. There was a lot of hype around these elections, however the results of these elections to me, tell an interesting story. It was commonly communicated that the ANC was in ‘crisis’, while in all honesty the ANC fell about 5% down from 2000, DA about 5% up. The supposedly collapsing ANC has 5086 seats, DA 1023, EFF 731, the rest 427, ANC controlling 175 municipalities and DA 24, IFP 7, EFF zero (and EFF votes stagnated: 1,169,259 in 2014, 1 229 210 in 2016) . This is no way a crisis. But the main story was not reported on in main stream media. That the voter turnout was disappointing.
We are taught by the news is that politics is about parties, and what to think about the parties. However, it is important to look at what the “news” does not say. Missing, for example: was how many people didn’t vote in 2016. You wouldn’t know it from newspapers (or party supporters), but a MAJORITY didn’t vote. And not one party got a majority of potential voters from the working class, the youth or the poor. In South Africa 33 million people are eligible to vote. 26 million (77%) registered. 15.3 million (58%) actually voted. Around 17.7 million who could have voted, didn’t. More people did not vote than voted for these 3 parties combined in the local municipality elections. People choose to stay away instead. Younger people (under 40) stayed away at a higher rate.
It is then not farfetched to believe this has been due to poor service delivery and complete loss of hope and maybe disillusionment around the party system. Voting has been commonly understood to be a civic duty. In trying to answer the question what does MobiSAM mean to mean to me, it became clear that democracy consists of much more than the right to vote. Civil society is based on ‘active citizenship’, which can be described as individuals understanding and having input into the decisions that impact on their day to day lives and that of their families. That is what MobiSAM is to me and I believe means to the residents of Makana: MobiSAM is the bridge, that connecting rod that allows for more effective citizen engagement. It does not treat politics as a four-year event, but understands that not having running water today, right now is political.
MobiSAM then has emerged because of the daily struggles of residents who even in a democratic society will continue to need to be active citizens as they represent their own interests on socioeconomic and hence political issues in a nonpartisan way, MobiSAM is the tool to get this historical task done.
In an attempt to work toward finding ways of working alongside local government in strategies aimed at extending our reach in the Municipal district as well as to make new connections with active CSOs in the area the team attended a briefing and training session hosted by the Executive Mayor of Makana Hon. Cllr N Gaga and Speaker of the Council, Cllr. Y Vara. Catering to a broad range of local stakeholders Government representatives showcased the the newly adopted and soon to be implemented, Operation Masiphathisane aimed at improving service delivery through close and sustained collaboration between local government and residents of local communities.
A process of ward based consultation and the establishment of Ward War Rooms has been actively taking place across Makana spanning 28 November – 14 December. Click on the hyperlinks for more coverage on MobiSAM’s involvement and Ward War Room consultations and establishment processes in Makana.
Local government elections (2016).
Mayekiso, M (1996). Township Politics. Civic Struggles for a New South Africa. Monthly Review Press