05 March 2024 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo SUPPLIED
Empowering University of the Free State faculty and students to exercise their voting rights this Human Rights Month.

In South Africa, the month of March holds special significance as it is celebrated nationwide as Human Rights Month, commemorating the hard-fought battles for individual freedoms and democratic principles. Central to this celebration is the right to vote, a cornerstone of democracy that aligns seamlessly with the principles upheld during this month.

As we mark Human Rights Month, the University of the Free State (UFS) reaffirms its commitment to promoting democratic participation among its staff and students. Aligned with the university's Vision 130 strategy, which emphasises the impact on societal development, the UFS seeks to educate and engage its community members on the importance of voting as a catalyst for positive change.

Promoting democratic participation

Axola Toto, the Bloemfontein Campus SRC President, shares the sentiment that voting is crucial in addressing pressing issues faced by the student populace, such as access to higher education and student welfare. “It is very important to vote. If you look at our history – for us to be here, we had to use our right to vote in 1994. And I'm a firm believer of the slogan that 2024 is our 1994. Voting is very much important, particularly for the student populace, because the issues that we are faced with now – the lack of access to higher education, student death and everything – can only be won if we manage to go vote and put the government we need in the right position.”

Institutional and Qwaqwa Campus SRC President, Sifundo Masuku, highlights the intergenerational responsibility to uphold the freedoms won by past generations by encouraging young people to exercise their right to vote. “As young persons, we are now in a way lucky to have this freedom that our forefathers fought for. So, it doesn't end there – for us to continue to be free, it must start with us encouraging the young ones, especially the ones who are at the universities. As the SRC, we are encouraging all students at the University of the Free State to go and vote, and they must vote for the right organisation.”

In the words of Delroy Swartz, a Council member at the UFS East College, the motivation to participate in elections stems from personal experiences of socioeconomic challenges, exacerbated by political factors. Similarly, Natalia de Abreu, an Assistant Researcher in Kovsie Support Services, highlights the influence of voting on shaping the future of the country and individual lives.

Encouraging informed decision-making 

Gerben van Niekerk, a Senior Officer in Kovsie Support Services, underscores the importance of informed voting, urging individuals to carefully consider the manifestos of all parties to make meaningful choices. “Take the time, take the effort, go through all of the manifestos – even of the smaller parties – you might find something that will really resonate with you. And when you read these manifestos, really think about what these manifestos are saying. So, if higher education is important to you, then look at what they are saying and you might find that there's a small party that really resonates with you, then vote. But it is very important that you do vote, because to come back to my first point, if you don't vote, you're not allowed to moan about anything in South Africa.”

Tebogo Malatjie, Chief Officer in Student Counselling and Development, emphasises the responsibility of each voter to contribute to building a better South Africa through responsible and informed decision-making. 

The right to vote

Successfully navigating the complexities of a democratic society involves recognising the sacrifices made to safeguard rights and understanding the influence citizens wield in shaping the future. During this Human Rights Month, the UFS reaffirms that dedication to democracy and progress can be achieved by exercising the right to vote.

Watch the video below:

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