I fear being judged by history as that young man whose vote participated in putting corrupt leaders in powerful positions, but at the same time I am frightened by the thought of being that person who was silent when his country needed his vote. Assuming this could be an ‘either-or’ situation, I am fully aware that I will still anyway be found complicit in the problems of my country, mainly caused by poor, unethical leadership.
If there is one thing I hate the most about voting, it has to be seeing the ones we voted into power becoming our very own enemies. It is an eventuality that pricks the layers of my conscience whenever I begin the elections debate in my own headspace. I am a prospective first-time voter who has been interested in politics since Jacob Zuma’s rape case (that’s the only memory I have of myself following political affairs). I have heard with a sense of what is somewhat a disappointed narrative from ‘senior’ voters who spare nothing to describe their shame at the current administration.
The controversial, recently launched ‘Sidikiwe! Vote No’ campaign by former government leaders, remarks of shame from ‘experienced’ voters, as well as the establishment of new political parties, all have one thing in common: the realisation of their shared complicities in what has become of the administration they voted into power.
Existing across their various political and psychological scopes is a desperate need to undo their vote, an attempt at self-absolution in the midst of the current problems facing the country.
As a first-time, to-be voter, the thought of participating in the ‘ruins’ of my country scares me. The knowledge that in any case should I feel dissatisfied with what government is doing, I will be seen as part of the collective that put that government up there kind of steals away my passion to vote.
Although this fear of being complicit in maladministration, self-aggrandisement, corruption, nepotism, deployment of inexperienced comrades and all the ‘sins’ government officials are notorious of has the capacity to draw me back, I do not think holding back my vote will solve my perplexity.
As a matter of fact, not voting is as equally complicit as voting for a corrupt political party.
This is to advance an argument that the practice and atmosphere of elections are by nature a conundrum. No one particular leader earns a voter’s absolute confidence. Certain expressions of confidence are qualified and given conditions, with the hope that all that could potentially go wrong does not go wrong.
As a young person with a lot of (arguably distorted) historical content about the ANC, but with a status of a free agent that can be impressed by anyone, I still find it difficult to take a single position on who to really vote for. The crux of my indecisiveness is not really about a specific political party, but the leader of such a party. And I have made a general assumption that this is the case with many other South Africans.
We live in the times when leadership is highly valued. So, we cannot be found scratching our heads as if we have lost a piece of our hair when it comes to the leadership question.
Is there a leader who will make me proud, not regretful, that I participated in the elections?
How do I overcome this fear of ‘misvoting’?
Do all voters go through or is it a matter of my being a fresher when it comes to voting?
Well, regardless of the answers to these necessary questions, the point is that in one way or another as voters we participate in the affairs of our country. We may want to escape the shared responsibility when things get really bad, but even an extreme stance of spoiling votes still throws us in the circle of the complicit within which we all spin and roll, but no one gets to break out of the guilt zone into a world that sees him/her as an innocent citizen who did not vote for these corrupt officials.
I guess when all is said and done, voting always boils down to mutual guilt or collective pride, depending on the (lack of) quality of leaders elected. It is a conflict-ridden process for me and I ask that you bear with me. All that I want the world to understand is that I won’t be able to live with myself knowing I contributed in the crisis of corruption, inequality and greed.
My fear is to be found complicit, though I understand that no other option will make me an anointed, consecrated citizen who sinned not. Therefore, when the time comes, conscious of the burdens of responsibility to make the right choice, I will indeed vote, hoping and praying that as sensitive and thoroughly thought the vote came, so shall it be treated by the incoming government.** This article was first published on News24 Voices.