#Elections2021: Campaigning a costly business, says Gen Z activist

───   OLEBOGENG MOTSE 11:37 Wed, 13 Oct 2021

#Elections2021: Campaigning a costly business, says Gen Z activist | News Article
PHOTO: Blaine Jones

Running for local government elections as an independent candidate is a costly exercise for anyone, let alone for a 23-year-old activist and community organiser in Bloemfontein.

Tshiamo Malatji, the Gen Z activist contesting the election in Mangaung Metro’s ward 19 without the backing of a political party, tells OFM News his 15-man team, made up mostly of peers, has helped him raise over R10 000 to cover the campaign’s running costs thus far. The expenses include administrative fees associated with getting onto the ballot, banners, posters, t-shirts, sponsored online posting fees, transportation, and event organising costs, the latter of which help in spreading the word regarding his campaign. Malatji explains how they have managed to raise the funds thus far.

“We get micro-donations from our friends. Some people put in R20, R50, and R100. I’ve got people from other countries that I engage with on Twitter. They send $10, $20. So a lot of small donations from a lot of people makes a lot of money,” says the 23-year-old community organiser. Presently, Malatji’s campaign has attracted 50 donations and he believes that “communities should pitch what they can, to get things done”.

READ MORE: Independent candidates aim to end broken political party system

Whilst the vast portion of the funds have been directed to the campaign, some of it is being used for the group’s community projects, like repainting dilapidated public parks and organising arts and crafts markets where local entrepreneurs can sell their goods in Ward 19: Willows, Westdene, and Bloemfontein’s central business district. Malatji is one of seven independent candidates running for election in Mangaung and one of 134 in the province. He says the problems emerging in the metro, which are in some instances being absorbed by financially constrained non-governmental organisations (NGO) in the city, prompted him to run for government.

How much does it cost to get onto the ballot?

According to the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) on registration fees, party-affiliated candidates contesting the elections in a metropolitan, local and district municipality are meant to cough up R3500, R2000 and R1000 respectively. Independent candidates and party affiliated candidates not contesting proportional representation (PR) election, are paying R1000. Political parties contesting all elections across the country must pay a deposit of R482 000 for a total of 4 725 elections and ballot papers. The IEC says these figures, whilst appearing to be significant, do in fact reflect a substantial decrease in the deposit amounts since the 2011 municipal elections.

South Africa has 12 months left to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to run for national elections.

In June 2020, history was made as the nonpartisan organisation known as the New Nation Movement, along with the Indigenous First Nation Advocacy SA, won their long-standing bid to have the Electoral Act amended to allow independent candidates to contest the national elections. Prior to this landmark judgment, independent candidates could only challenge municipal elections, like in Malatji’s case, but had to be a part of political organisations when seeking national and provincial office. 

In June 2020, the Constitutional Court effectively declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional and gave parliament 24 months to make the necessary amendments to the Act.  With 12 months left until this deadline comes to an end, many are of the view, including former gender advisor at the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Nomkitha Gysman, that even if the changes are made to the Act, the costs associated with running a campaign at national level will keep the number of independent candidates running for office low.

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