Print logo

Civics Chat with experienced IEC Commissioner
"What is Democracy?"

The Hanns Seidel Foundation’s Civics Academy hosted a #CivicsChat on its different social media platforms recently to discuss the topic “What is Democracy” with an online audience. Guest speaker Dr Nomsa Masuku, Commissioner at the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), shared her insights on the theme of the session and the questions raised.

Bannder: An online discussion as part of a series of Civics Chats

An online discussion as part of a series of Civics Chats


South Africa marks 30 years of democracy since the first democratic elections in 1994, as it prepares for the 2024 National and Provincial Elections.  The Civics Chat was opened by playing our Civics Academy video "What is Democracy" as well. Reflecting on the state of democracy in the country, Dr Masuku shared her thoughts on how South Africans are still committed to the democratic project, but often disappointed with achievements so far, referring to Issues of poor service delivery and corruption as well.

The Commissioner spoke about the importance of understanding that democracy is not limited to election days. Citizens have a significant role to play beyond them, and they can strengthen democracy by being active citizens. Dr Masuku underlined that South Africa's democracy has been designed to amplify even the smallest voices, to foster political engagement and representation.

She emphasised that civic education is crucial, helping citizens discover the avenues they can use to become actively involved in democratic processes. Dr Masuku spoke of the importance of civic education in the context of elections, especially against the backdrop of misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. Civic education can empower individuals to understand and exercise their agency, and it encourages voter participation.

While low voter participation is a concern in South Africa as well, the Commissioner expects a slightly higher turnout in the upcoming elections than in the most recent ones in 2021, in line with the general trend of national and provincial elections attracting a higher turnout than local government elections. Her expectation is also based on the excitement that new players are adding this year. New parties and independent candidates enrich the political arena and offer new leadership choices.

Dr Masuku explained practical details of the three-ballot system applied for the first time this year – and she advised first-time voters not to hesitate to ask for guidance from the officials at the polling station if they are uncertain about anything. To ensure a smooth voting experience, asking for help is encouraged.

Participants appreciated the opportunity the #CivicsChat offered to engage directly with an experienced Commissioner of South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission. The discussion also contributed to raising awareness for the urgent need to foster civic education in the country.


You can watch a recording of the event here:

Cicivs Chat: What is Democracy?


Visit our Civics Academy website to explore its civic education resources:

Civics Academy





Subscribe to our Newsletter to receive event invitations and new publications via email - and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news about our work.