DDP's Dr. Paul, Kariuki, Sphamandla Mhlongo with delegates and partners (including Dr. Masuku, Dr. Hlongwane from the IEC, as well as Letlhogonolo Letshele from My Vote Counts) at the 4th Annual political summit.
Concerns over declining levels of political participation, particularly in traditional activities such as voting and political party membership, have led many to argue that political apathy is increasing and that democracy is at risk (Putnam 2000, Macedo et al. 2005). Reading this literature one could assert that there is a general crisis of political participation. Many have questioned this interpretation and argue that the mainstream participation literature only provides a partial account of trends in political participation because it operates with a narrow understanding of politics.
While there has certainly been a decline, both in this and other mature, liberal democracies, in traditional forms of participation, which might be characterised as producing a crisis of participation, at the same time there has been a rise of new forms of political participation that operate outside of the established formal arenas. Consequently, the argument proffer that the decline in traditional forms of participation must be located within a broader understanding of the rise of alternative forms.
On 14 July 2022, DDP hosted the Political Summit with the theme: ‘A Crisis in Political Participation?’. The conference aimed to explore this theme deeper whilst examining what can be done to mend the trust-deficit in the country, especially as it pertains to voting, engagement within local government and chapter 9 institutions. More importantly, it seeks to explore mechanisms for greater political accountability so as to prevent further decline in political participation.
The conversations from the conference included:
Examinations of the impact of the lack of participation in the formal spaces for public participation
Identifying the successes and shortfalls of the present institutional framework as it pertains to political participation;
Exploring alternative mechnisms that can be considered towards improving participation and the effects of the current system on voter turnout;
Exploring under which local conditions can the systems for participation work;
Exploring the role of various stakeholders – citizens, civil society, political parties, government, private sector and labour;
DDP would like to thank Dr Nomusa Masuku, Mr Lukhona Mnguni, Mr Sthembiso Madlala, Ms. Londiwe Mntambo and Letlhogonolo Letshele for being our guest speakers and for sharing their insights on this theme. DDP is also grateful to the Independent Electoral Commission and My Vote Counts for your partnership during this Summit. Even greater gratitude is expressed to our DDP supporters and audience for their on-going support for our events.