Why election Ads are misleading

It’s been a while now since one heard of election Ads on the radios of some celebrity claiming the importance of voting and that they, too, will go and cast their vote on May 7.

While I accept it is everyone’s right to choose to vote in the coming or any other election, it is equally unfair to bombard the general public with seemingly misleading Ads in which celebrities are displayed urging them to register to vote and vote, reminding them why they should. At the same time, it is also important to respect the right of those who choose NOT to exercise this voluntary right to vote irrespective of how ill-informed and cowardly this might be seen.

By now I think every reasonable South African – here or abroad – does recognise and know the importance of voting and everything that comes with it: sometimes continue failed promises that are yet to be realised 20 years into our democracy. It is often overlooked why people are disillusional in exercising this voluntary right to vote. For example, I had not registered to vote during the registration dates because I was disillusioned and angry that the ruling party had not only failed me but millions of the poorest of the poor across the country – the very same poor people it claims to represent, something which I think is very false at times.

It was only the 20th February that I went to the local IEC office to register to vote. That, still, is no guarantee at all that I will go and vote. For example, in an area where I stay, people were apparently threatened that those who have not registered to vote will not be assisted with Proof of Residential letters (many of them from other parts of the North West province) by their wards’ respective counsellors – many of them from the ruling African National Congress. Whether this is true or not, the threat forced many of those who did not even plan to go and vote (my neighbour, included) to just go to the local designated registration centre to go and register to vote just so that they can have that proof of voting registration stamped at the back of their IDs for with that – except the small dark mark on one’s thumb – no-one will EVER know for sure whether you have voted or not.

So I am not saying I WILL OR WILL NOT go and vote in the coming elections but there point I am driving is that these elections Ads, where famous personalities encourage people to go and vote, are, in my view, misleading. This is because some of them claimed they had registered to go and vote and that that (voting) is exactly what they will do come the 7th May when millions of people will be queuing at thousands of voting stations across the country to election their next ruling government. Additionally, I believe the Ads are further misleading because – just as my registration to vote is no guarantee (to the local counsellor) that I will be queuing at a local voting station casting my vote on which of the current political parties should take us through the next administration – there really is no guarantee to us the reasonable media consumers (or voters for whom the Ads were intended) that the very same celebrities featuring on those Ads have indeed registered to vote and that they, too, will be flocking to their nearby voting stations to cast their vote.

The only way to know these celebrities’ claims in these Ads are true is when they, in the other tv Ads, show the stamps on the back of their IDs as prove of registration to vote; and that come the 7th of May, we have cameras following them and are seen casting their vote. But because casting one’s vote is apparently one’s secret – meaning we can’t have them be seen casting their secret vote – it is therefore really difficult to believe the claims they make in these Ads, however genuine they are, which, in my view, remain misleading.

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