Official South Africa Voting & Electoral System

We gladly brings to you full details about South Africa Voting & Electoral System

National and provincial elections

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) runs South Africa’s elections. National and provincial elections take place every five years. The latest took place in 2019, and the next will be in 2024. The nearly 26 million registered voters can cast their ballots for a political party – not individuals – in a proportional representation (PR) voting system.

This is where political parties get a share of seats in Parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes won. Each party then selects members to fill these seats.

South African municipal elections

Municipal elections also take place every five years in South Africa. These differ from national and provincial elections as they use a mixed or hybrid system; making use of both the ward system and the proportional representation system. The next municipal elections will take place on 21 October 2023.

Can I vote in a South African election?

If you are wondering if you are eligible to vote in elections, the short answer is… probably not. You can only vote in general elections if you are a South African citizen. Even if you become a permanent resident, you cannot cast a ballot until you become a citizen of the country. You can only register to vote, then cast a ballot on polling days, if you hold a passport and identity document; issued by the South African government’s Department of Home Affairs.

Read our Guide to South African visas and permits

Since 1994, South Africa’s elections haven’t been considered anything other than free, fair, and democratic. Although voter turnout has declined, the African Union (AU) has attributed this to “disillusionment with politics due to the prevailing circumstances, including high… youth unemployment, weak economic performance of the state, poor service delivery, corruption and grievances over land redistribution”.

The main political parties in South Africa

The African National Congress (ANC)

The African National Congress (ANC) has been in power since Nelson Mandela won the first free and fair elections in 1994. It has however garnered a noticeably reduced majority each time since 2004. At the last national election in 2019, the ANC won 57% of the vote, giving the party 230 seats in the National Assembly; a decline from 249 seats in 2014.

Ideologically, the party is economically and socially progressive, having championed a non-racist, non-sexist, and non-homophobic agenda. The ANC also favors a welfare state and has extended social safety nets through a range of grants.

Economically, its successive administrations have favored a mixed economy, with public ownership of utilities and other entities in critical sectors. However, these state-owned enterprises have poor reputations and are now the target of reforms following widespread mismanagement.

More recently, there have been disputes between factions within the party, with some championing more radical economic plans and a total rejection of neoliberal economic policy.

Democratic Alliance (DA)

The main opposition, Democratic Alliance (DA), won 20% of the vote, giving the party 84 seats in the National Assembly. The DA, which originated from the Progressive Party that formed in 1959, champions free market and liberal democratic principles. Its sister party in the UK is the Liberal Democrats. Notably, the party runs the only province that is not under ANC control – the Western Cape.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)

The third-largest party in Parliament is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), established in 2016 by former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. The EFF won just over 10% of the vote in 2019 and has 44 seats in Parliament. The party describes itself as “a radical and militant economic emancipation movement… pursuing the struggle of economic emancipation”.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is the fourth largest party in Parliament. It won just over 3% of the vote and 14 seats in the last election. It is largely a regional party, with a core of Zulu-speaking supporters in KwaZulu-Natal. Since its founding in 1975, it has been led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi who led an apartheid-era Bantustan.

KwaZulu-Natal has a history of political violence, and some 20,000 people are thought to have died between 1980 and 2000, with the IFP an active participant. The party received support from the apartheid state and held political power in the province in the immediate post-apartheid period. That said, support for the party has waned. Its recent manifestos have included a focus on social justice.

Vryheidsfront Plus (VF Plus)

The Freedom Front Plus (Vryheidsfront Plus/VF Plus) is the fifth largest party in Parliament. It improved its electoral performance in 2019, winning just over 2% of the vote, increasing its seats from four to 10. VF Plus is a minority rights party, and was formed just a month before the first democratic election in 1994. The party has a largely Afrikaans-speaking supporter base. It is against policies such as affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment, which are meant to address the socio-economic inequities of apartheid.

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)

Lastly, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) is the only other party with more than two seats in Parliament. It won just under 1% of the vote, representing a slight improvement on its 2014 showing. The party says it rests “on a strong Biblical foundation” and that it “promotes, upholds, and defends Christian family values”. On May 8, 1996, the ACDP voted against the adoption of South Africa’s progressive Constitution.

There are several other smaller parties in Parliament, and many more registered with the IEC, that have failed to gain any seats

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