My vote used to count
While millions of South Africans were heeding the calls of the Independent Electoral Commission, political parties, media personalities and their conscience and voting this past Wednesday, I was catching up on overdue lunch dates with friends and even managed to squeeze in a facial in the afternoon.
On Monday night, two days prior to voting day, I was a witness to a Twitter war—a “twar”—between two people I follow, who were arguing about the significance, or the lack thereof, of voting in these municipal elections. One was expressing his frustration about which party to vote for.
It’s an easy guess that he was facing the same conundrum as many others: we are the disgruntled voters who wasted our ballots on the Congress of the People (Cope) in 2009 because we didn’t believe in the current government and we just couldn’t be the struggle beneficiaries who betrayed their cultural conditioning by voting for the opposition.
And when Cope lost its credibility after the elections, some of us also became lost and we still haven’t found direction from any of the frontrunners in these elections. But my Twitter compatriot, unlike me, still registered to vote despite not knowing which party would win his support.
His virtual opponent, on the other hand, rested her argument on the age-old “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about service delivery” retort, finally sealing her case by stating, “If you don’t push the button, the lift won’t move.”
I thought about my own perspective and the initial guilt associated with not exercising another right that we South Africans have: the right not to vote. I used to believe my vote counted, until we woke up with the wrong president one September morning in 2008. My vote and my voice didn’t seem to count when it suited the leadership and that’s when I began to abandon the lofty notion that voting has any historical significance.
Sure, I can enjoy my lunch dates and facials because of the sacrifices that many people made to allow me these privileges. But I am not indebted to the ANC, which is what they have based their entire campaign on—making sure that black people don’t forget what the revolutionary party did to emancipate them.
As a passive participant in the drama I have begun to abhor the racial tactics and tricks that political parties use to influence voters. I feel I am being victimised. I absolutely hate the fact that I am still not able to look at the Democratic Alliance as a political party without seeing it as a party for “white people”.
It’s devastating that, when it comes to many other aspects of my life, I like to think I am above this but, in relation to politics, I cannot see straight because my vision is “coloured”. I have had no real problem with not voting, even though some would regard my reasons as misguided. In some ways I was voting—not with my hand but with my feet.