LET US UNITE FOR A FREE, FAIR AND PEACEFUL ELECTION

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Dear Fellow South African,

On Wednesday, we will be holding a general election for the seventh time since we attained democracy. More than 27 million registered voters will have an opportunity to choose the party or candidate of their choice.

South African voters will join approximately 1.5 billion people – more than half the world’s population – who will be casting their votes this year in elections in more than 80 countries around the world.

South Africa’s elections have taken place without major incident for the past 30 years. Once again, we have every confidence that this election will take place under conditions of peace, safety and tolerance, and that it will be free and fair.

The integrity of our elections is testament to the high regard in which South Africans hold their hard-won right to vote. It is an affirmation that no matter what our political differences are, when it comes to safeguarding our democracy, we are prepared to put these differences aside for the common good.

Our past is a stark reminder of how much we should cherish this achievement. On the eve of the first democratic election in 1994 the country was on the brink. State-sponsored violence and the threat of a right-wing insurrection contributed to a sense of fear and uncertainty.

One newspaper carried a story at the time titled “South Africa hoarding as fear rises”. It described long supermarket queues of people stocking up on tinned foods, a rush to attend emigration seminars, panicked currency exchanges, and fearful callers to radio stations about sabotage of power plants and water supplies.

None of these fears materialised. On 27 April 1994, more than 19 million South Africans of all races took part in a peaceful election. The political violence that had been relentless in the years and months leading up to the poll dramatically declined.

We recall the courage of the political leadership at the time and their efforts to quell tensions. We recall the role of the leadership of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the African National Congress and the National Party in signing a memorandum of agreement for reconciliation and peace just three days before the election.

We recall these events to remind ourselves of what is required of us all as we head to the polls on Wednesday. We are required to continue to honour the sacrifices of our forebears by exercising their right to vote and to do so peacefully. We are required to respect the rights of others regardless of who they are voting for, and regardless of whether they are voting or not.

In 1994, there were some who tried to strike fear into voters about majority rule, to sway people into voting along ethnic lines, and even to keep people away from voting stations on election day.

As South Africans we have rejected the politics of fear time and again, and we will continue to do so. For the past thirty years we have chosen the path of peace over violence, of reconciliation over hate, and of unity over divisions of race, ethnicity or tribe. The stability and integrity of our electoral system bears witness to this.

Holding free, fair and peaceful elections are a barometer of the good health of our democracy.

As we cast our votes on Wednesday, let us, in the words of our Constitution, “honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land, respect those who have worked to build and develop our country, and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”

Let us hold another election that is peaceful, that is free, that is fair and that is a credit to all the elections we have held since 1994. Let it be that the ultimate winner of this election is South Africa, our democracy, and you, the South African people.

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