Why people vote the way they do

2013-07-17 00:00

IT has been interesting to note the kind of reception that has greeted new parties Agang and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters.

Established parties and their supporters have stopped short of laughing these two formations out of the park. Critics have made curious remarks that can only mean they would rather not have anyone enter what they consider their space.

One self-serving criticism is that their policies offer nothing new, or that they have no manifestos to begin with. The critics assume that the majority of South Africans, black or white, make their electoral choices after carefully reading each political organisation’s manifesto and policy documents. While I am certain there are those people who make their choices that clinically, I do not know too many.

The majority of people I know vote without ever reading a word of the promises made by politicians. They vote for a party on the basis of historical allegiance, or against a party on any number of grounds.

They vote the way they do because they remember too well how dehumanised they were under white rule. Some vote because they believe that the ANC has become a den of thieves who are out to enrich themselves, among the infinite number of reasons people cast their ballots the way they do.

One of the reasons that many people find manifestos irrelevant is that the problems South Africa has are there for everyone to see. One does not need to be a political scientist to know that there are deep economic inequalities that coincide with race.

There is rampant corruption in the public service. The education and health systems need a great overhaul. We have unacceptably high levels of crime, including that perpetrated by corporates, who fix the price of everything, from bread to the building of stadia, and then tell the public that their profits are due to

“efficiencies”.

Any manifesto would therefore promise to do something about these wrongs. As in sports, it is not so much the names on the team sheet, but how well they execute the tactics that makes the difference. Agang and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) detractors must come with a better argument than that the parties are founded by individuals motivated by personal greed, anger or a love of the spotlight.

The quality of governance in South Africa is in continuous decline. It is commendable and patriotic of those who take it upon themselves to do something about this state of affairs.

Voters can choose whether they believe the new kids on the block, but they have no basis for pretending that they don’t know why groups such as Agang, the EFF and whoever else, have emerged.

One does not need to trust Julius Malema or agree with him on what it means, but it is necessary to appreciate that economic justice for all is the best bet for long-term national cohesion.

South Africa is ripe for a

reconfiguration of its politics and shake-up of the political process. Even the most ardent ANC

supporters, if they are honest, will admit that a weaker ANC would be better.

In no other country would a head of state build, or allow a R200 million private home to be funded from the state purse, or be the face of his party at elections, let alone be assured of a new term of office.

• Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is a former Witness editor and freelance

journalist.

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