Project Description

Dr Sithembile Mbete

Sithembile Mbete Democracy Fellow OSF-SA 25 years in South Africa

Your Vote Matters

Sithembile is a lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria where she lectures in international relations and South African politics. She has a DPhil in International Relations. Her doctoral research involved an analysis of South Africa’s two elected terms in the United Nations Security Council. She has published on the Economic Freedom Fighters and on South African elections in accredited journals. Her research has been funded by the National Institute for Humanities and Social Science, the National Research Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Mellon Foundation. In 2014, she was a visiting scholar at the Department of Political Science and Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo. She comments frequently in the media on a range of issues in South African politics.


Sithembile’s project explores the argument that informing voters about the electoral system can combat voter apathy and increase turnout in the 2019 elections. Noting voter decline and some of the factors contributing to this (including disillusionment, corruption, governance failures, and a lack of political accountability), Sithembile argues that, in a proportional representation electoral system like South Africa’s, people should be incentivised to turn out to vote, because every vote counts.

The project will explore discussions of electoral system reform based on the 2017 High-Level Panel recommendation that the Electoral Act be amended so that South Africans would be able to directly elect their Members of Parliament This is similar to the recommendations of the Electoral Task Team chaired by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert (the Open Society Foundation for South Africa’s first Board Chairperson) in 2003.

This project contributes to the debate on electoral reform by generating informed debate about the system among voters. Electoral system reform that improves the accountability of politicians is critical to consolidating democracy and constitutionalism. However, until that is achieved, the project considers the question: What can be done to convince South Africans that their vote can make a real difference to the outcome of the 2019 election?