Melanie Verwoerd

#LGE2016: 'My vote is my secret'

2016-08-03 06:04

Melanie Verwoerd

“Do you vote for the ANC or the DA?” one of my neighbour’s children asked this week, when we met in the street. Her mother hastily intervened as people often do, when they suspect that you have a different political opinion from their own. “A vote is actually secret,” she said.

The mother’s response immediately took me back to the happy days of 1994. I was part of the ANC election committee in Stellenbosch. For months we worked tirelessly, driven by a belief in what was right and the promise of a new beginning. Most probably because of our sense of being part of correcting a moral wrong, we had not for a moment believed the opinion polls that had predicted the Western Cape would stay with the National Party.

During the counting of the votes one of our party monitors suggested to the ACDP monitor that for a bit of fun, the ACDP monitor should shout: “Amandla” every time there was an ANC vote, and our devoted Muslim colleague would shout “Hallelujah” when there was a vote for the ACDP. It was funny for a little while, until it became clear that there were even fewer “Amandlas” than “Hallelujahs”.

The day after our miserable defeat in Stellenbosch, another colleague from Cloetesville, who owned a minibus taxi picked up his regular clients. As soon as the door closed he turned around: “Right! Which of you f**kers did not vote for the ANC?” he asked. There was silence, but then two women said slightly snootily: “Our vote is our secret.” At this point, he opened the door and said: “Out you get! And never get into my taxi again. If you are ANC, you say it! Only the National Party has this secrecy bulls**t.”

Yesterday I was the one in the driver’s seat when, as usual, I gave a few women (I won’t use their real names) who work in my neighbourhood a lift to the station. They know me by now, so the conversation flowed easily and they didn’t hide their different political views. I asked how they felt about the election.

“I am worried,” said Tandi.

The heads in the back nodded in agreement. 

“The ANC is going to do badly,” said Tembi.  

“Do you think we should still vote for the ANC?” I asked.

“I will always vote for the ANC,” said Tandi, her voice rising sharply. “Never mind Jacob Zuma.”

 “Eish, I don’t know. I am not sure what I am going to do on Wednesday. That Jacob Zuma is doing lots of wrong things,” said Tembi, while the others sighed and eished in agreement.

 “Yes,” said Tandi, “but we must fix him.”

“All his wives can’t fix him, how will you?” asked Nomajoni and the others collapsed with laughter.

“Julius Malema scares me and everyone is just talking EFF in Gugulethu,” Tandi insisted.  

 But if he wins, things will change. He makes things happen,” Tembi responded.

“What about the DA?” I asked.

No one answered.

“Is it true that a lot of whites are going to vote for the EFF?” asked Nomajoni.

“I have heard of a few young, white people who say they are going to,” I responded.

A silence followed.

“Eish, this country is a crazy place,” said Tembi.

As they got out of the car they all told me to be sure to vote and jokingly wondered if it would be for Julius Malema.

Today is voting day and frankly I don’t want to give anyone my vote. I just realised that I don’t even know who the candidates for my area are. This is not due to a lack of an interest; not a single candidate came around to introduce themselves. No pamphlets were dropped in my post box and there are not any posters up in the streets around me. Which could only mean that the DA is so confident, that they are going to win this part of Cape Town, that they didn’t bother to put work in. The other parties clearly felt the same and were nowhere to be seen. I don’t like that. My vote is important to me, so those who want it should make an effort to get it.

In the last few weeks I have also been shocked by the behaviour of the leaders of the big parties. I have been political all my life, so I am not naïve about politicians. But it was truly awful to watch how the behaviour of the leaders of the big parties deteriorated as the election battle heated up and the fight for the large block of undecided voters, especially in the big metros, became more intense. As I predicted a few weeks ago, they all used the dangerous old trump (!) card: the ace of race.

They tried literally to out-race one another. The president, amongst other, accused Mmusi Maimane of being a white puppet and predictably hid ANC failures behind a thin veil of racial insults. Maimane hit back declaring that Zuma was as racist as HF Verwoerd.

But most despicable of all, they also tried to out-Madiba each other. Do they really think we are that stupid? The cheap attempt at claiming Madiba in order to gain votes is so transparently opportunistic. I truly dislike the fact that the DA tried to highjack him. But, I found it utterly disgraceful that the ANC quoted Madiba repeatedly on Sunday at their final election rally to make a racist point, ie that the DA is a white party and, by implication, that Mmusi is a sell-out/traitor to black people in this country. “They must leave Madiba, so he can rest,” said Tembi in my car. “His spirit will get restless.”

And while these two leaders were busy fighting over Madiba and declaring “my stadium is bigger than yours”, Julius Malema was addressing hundreds of meetings. The EFF’s final election rally in Polokwane on Sunday had all the tones and energy of the ANC rallies pre-1994. It was blatantly obvious that many people have found a new leader who agrees with Tembi that he will make things happen.  The problem is, it will cost the country dearly.

So frankly, I am fed-up! So fed-up, that I debated not voting. But I know that is wrong. Too many people gave their lives in this country for the right to vote and we should all go out there and claim that right. Who will I vote for? Well, my vote is my secret!

*Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and SA ambassador to Ireland. 

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Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  eff  |  local elections 2016

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