I voted for the first time on Wednesday, in South Africa’s fifth general election. My social networks are saturated with thumb selfies and statuses that express levels of pride in the new, democratic South Africa I have never seen before. In contrast, making my mark and having my say has left me feeling less certain about our nation’s future and more anxious about the possibility of actually making a difference in our country. I regret voting. Yeah, I said it.
Here is why. Whilst being in awe of, and respecting our difficult history, the blood that was shed, and the courageous work of those that came before us, I remain disenchanted by the present state of affairs and unable to reconcile our past with a vision for the future. Because concern for a nation does not fall on my shoulders alone, I look to political parties and their respective leaders to provide a vision for the future that I hope to live long enough in which to participate. In my deliberation with my peers, family and friends I have noticed two trends: one group is usually committed to voting for the ANC while the other group has withered in their commitment to the party that liberated our country, vowing to throw their vote at any party simply to spite the ANC or to light a fire under their bottom, as someone aptly put it. I think this where my issue lies with these elections. Why, in a democratic state, do the citizens feel the need to punish a political party, that is accountable to its citizens at all times, by means that seem to dishonour the right to vote? Why are we using our votes as a means to express our dissent for the leadership of country and correct perceived arrogance on the part of the ANC? And in doing so, one settles for opposition parties that do not offer any more reassurance than the “devil” that we know?
I regret voting because I feel like no one has the answers. I do not feel any political party can stand as a representative for me. I’m pessimistic, suspicious and conflicted about the very significant choice I made in the voting booth on Wednesday. Personally, it was a choice with no viable alternatives. It was vote for ‘fun’ parliamentary sessions, a vote against Jacob Zuma’s disrespect for the citizens that want answers, a vote for the end of e-tolls, a vote for living wages despite the political wordplay that’s been flung around in manifestos. It was always a vote of negation, never an intentional vote with genuine belief in prospects for real change. Why be complicit in this silly delusion?
Russell Brand (yes, THE Russel Brand) succinctly articulates my view:
“It’s not that I am not voting out of apathy, I am not voting out of absolute indifference, and weariness, and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now. And which has now reached fever pitch where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system, and that’s not something I’m offering up.”
It was a choice I made, nonetheless. One that will determine who influences decisions that will affect the way in which I, along with millions, live as a citizen of this country.
I am not saying that democracy is meaningless. I have reaped the benefits of this democracy and my life is significantly more dignified and fulfilling than most of my parent’s lives. But I do think that any democracy does have its flaws and inadequacies, especially when it come to issues of legitimacy and accountability. Perhaps my frustration lies in the political agenda and the game of democratic politics. Does that make me a revolutionary? Even if it does it’s still a sad story because I still don’t have the answers, and neither does Russell Brand. Back to the drawing board.
See the entire Russell Brand interview, here.