While Election Day is but a few days away, many of us are still struggling to make a concrete choice about where to place our ‘X’ on the ballot. Both older and newer generations, who are registered to vote, are not only taking this election more seriously, but are also trying to compromise on the pros and cons between each respective party. It is not surprising that citizens are finding it so difficult to vote for a particular party given the current political climate against South Africa’s historical background in the face of what is probably the most significant of elections since 1994 itself.
There is no real need to revisit South Africa’s entire history since we know it all too well by now. However, it is significant to highlight that the transition from racial segregation to constitutional democracy was indeed a miracle considering the fact that South Africa was on the brink of a civil war during the early 90’s. That being said, the country is at a new point in history: the miracle has been achieved; it now boils down to maintenance and preservation of the miracle by the governed and those who govern, i.e. the state.
Thus, for many reasons, the upcoming elections is definitely the most heated and significant one South Africa has yet to see in her still early years of democracy. Firstly, the born-frees will be voting for the first time in their lives. Secondly, and possibly on a more negative note, the country (as a whole) has watched the rise of the ruling party and now the fall of the ruling party. I use the term ‘fall’ not to denote a fall from power, but rather a fall from what was once a highly reputable party in the eyes of many. Perhaps and surely many still hold the ruling party in high esteem for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is this: factions within the ruling party, dirty backdoor politics, corruption and poor leadership has caused a shift from faith in the ruling party to doubtfulness about its future endeavours.
The debate about the ruling party is not the “good story” they have to tell, or their ideology and principles and what they have done for South Africa. Instead, it is about the executive – conduct, recent policies and sheer lack of accountability and unwillingness to change. Most people then suggest voting for the strongest opposition party, which makes perfect sense. The only real issue with the strongest opposition party is the fact that much of what they stand for is grounded on slamming the ruling party. What the electorate needs is not a reminder of everything the ruling party is not doing, but rather fresh perspectives and solutions.
Since the ruling party and strongest opposition do not seem entirely promising, there are of course the new kids on the bloc – Agang SA and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). There is no doubt as to the respect Dr. Ramphele has earned herself in her many years of fighting for freedom, but the indecisiveness and lack of strong presence by Agang SA has led the new party to cause doubt as to the overall competency thereof. On the other extreme, the very controversial Julius Malema calls for economic freedom and what some would call economic liberation of the masses. However, let alone promising the economically impossible at this point, “…this is the young South African who preaches on behalf of the poor and to the poor…” whilst simultaneously being dubbed as ‘The devil [who] wears Breitling’ (Forde, 2011). Of course, there are a multitude of minority parties to consider and choose, but it is always easier said than done.
There is a major shift in voting with the heart to voting with the head. It is no longer about ideology, struggle, racial segregation, oppression or many deficiencies of basic human rights and freedoms. It is now about the nitty-gritty; it is about less talk and more action. Every citizen, especially the youth, simply has to be critical of each party because the public is restless for all kinds of change – perhaps the changes many expected years ago already. The restlessness is evident almost anywhere you go – the ongoing protests and even social media.
A solution or solutions to end this confusion and uncertainty before Election Day is all but blurred. To each their own, but I will end on this note:
“To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” – Louis L’Amore