Spoil-your-ballot campaign is out of touch

2014-04-16 14:19

When I first heard about the “Vote No” campaign being spearheaded by ANC veterans and long-term activists, my instinctive reaction was a dismissive one – here come a bunch of out-of-touch Capetonians with yet another harebrained scheme.

The country had already been subjected to Mamphela Ramphele’s doomed political experiment, which was very clearly conceived around a Cape Town dinner table, and had little chance of catching fire.

Eighteen months later and two weeks before it contests its first elections, Ramphele’s Agang SA party is already regarded as a has-been.

Ramphele can be forgiven for her ignorance of political dynamics. She has never played the real game in post-apartheid South Africa.

The likes of Ronnie Kasrils, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and Mazibuko Jara – who are championing the Sidikiwe! Vukani! campaign – should have known better than to launch a campaign that would have no currency with the population.

Unlike their fellow Capetonian Ramphele, they have played the real game and got their clothes muddied and eyes blackened by their own comrades in the rough terrain of South African electoral politics.

One would have expected them to read the national mood much better.

Make no mistake, their sentiments are not off-beam. The ANC they are objecting to is not the ANC they gave their youth and adulthood to and made sacrifices for. It is not an ANC that still believes and practises the values that inspired the world to join the struggle against apartheid.

While the majority of the ANC’s membership still joins for the right reasons, its leadership has been hijacked by a rapacious clique bent on undermining everything that the party once stood for.

The leader of the party is a corruptible politician who, were it not for his henchmen’s rape of the justice system, should have stood trial on 783 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering. Instead, he is the leader of the party and president of the republic.

In power he has continued his corruptible ways –  cavorting with slimy businesspeople and using public funds to spend on his private luxuries. As demonstrated by his defensive utterances on the Nkandla scandal, he is congenitally unable to distinguish between right and wrong.

In the process, he has dragged the country and his party down with him and rendered corruption an acceptable practice.

South Africans have come to the realisation that we can never cure the corruption cancer while he is in charge. And they are angry.

This is what makes it difficult for people like Kasrils, Madlala-Routledge and many others to endorse the party they have loved all their lives.

Hence the campaign that is urging citizens to spoil their ballots or vote for a smaller opposition party.

The option of spoiling the vote seems to come from the perception that most traditional ANC voters who are disgruntled with the party just cannot bring themselves to abandon their political home and seek shelter in another political house.

The Sidikiwe! Vukani! people are right and wrong. It is true that many voters are glued to the governing party either because of the past that the party delivered them from or what it delivered to them in the post-apartheid present.

But where they have it wrong is not seeing that there is a great mental and emotional shift by South Africans who are liberating themselves from the liberation movement.

If the instigators of the spoilt ballot movement were not resident on the continent’s southern peninsula, they would have had their fingers on the pulse of this shift.

In this election, urban voters are thinking about their voting choices. Voters are not behaving as they did in most previous elections when the governing party’s campaign messages served only to confirm decisions they had already made.

Significant numbers of black voters are considering the Democratic Alliance as an alternative and ignoring the ANC’s characterisation of the party as a hangover of the National Party and a defender of white privilege.

What is putting them off is the DA old-guard’s rejection of key transformation policies and the resultant fuzziness of the party’s position on employment equity and black economic empowerment.

A larger number are hearing Julius Malema’s loud and brash voice and migrating to his Economic Freedom Fighters. They don’t necessarily agree with his wild policies nor believe in his ethical cleanliness.

But they are prepared to overlook these issues and use him as a weapon with which to give the ANC a klap.

Others who are uncomfortable with the DA and the EFF are looking at the United Democratic Movement’s Bantu Holomisa as a strong principled voice that should continue to be given a platform on the national stage.

Yet another lot, albeit in small numbers, is prepared to give Mamphele’s failed project a chance.

Now this is just the traditional ANC supporters we are talking about, we have not even touched on the undecided ones.

So to call on voters to spoil their ballots in an election in which they feel they have choices – no matter how poor – is out of touch with the South African political mood.

This is an election in which people have strong feelings either for or against the governing party. They want to express these feelings at the ballot box.

While spoiling your vote is not undemocratic nor undermining the democratic process, as some have argued, this election is not the occasion to propagate its use.

That is why its advocates have either been yelled or laughed at by everyone across the political spectrum.

My advice to them: Get out of Cape Town more often.

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