Conflicted voter: So many parties, so much paper

Voters show their identification documents prior to making their mark at a polling station in Marikana. Initial polls indicate the Intestinal Bacteria are proliferating. (Skyler Reid, AFP)

Voters show their identification documents prior to making their mark at a polling station in Marikana. Initial polls indicate the Intestinal Bacteria are proliferating. (Skyler Reid, AFP)

Standing in a queue to vote is a great South African tradition. No point getting Mark Shuttleworth busy on an app for laptop or phone so you can vote with a click or two – that would kill the thrill of waiting an hour to cast your vote.

The wait adds to the anticipation of the big moment when you will finally make your X – you know, that thing you’re doing “for Madiba”.

Standing in that queue, you have extra time, too, in which to replay your dilemmas about which party to vote for this time round. Will it be the Wasps, the Flies, even the Intestinal Bacteria?

And, of course, the queue’s a great place to get to know other South Africans. I didn’t chat to any of my fellow suburbanites on Wednesday, mostly because the voices in my head were making too much noise already. But I did do some close observation. How nice to see the aged and the infirm, the young and the trendy (though most were casually dressed), the sporty and the serious, all lined up ready to do their duty.

“Someone should do a coffee run,” said a voter nearby. “Yes,” said her companion, “and this afternoon we’ll do a wine run”.

Spirits were high. One group was comparing ID book photos. “Look, that’s me in 2000,” said one. “Doesn’t look like you at all,” said another. And a third: “Look at me in this pic. I’m thinking of dyeing my hair.”

Spirits went up even more when a young man from the IEC came down the queue, calling for pensioners – they, it seemed, would be entitled to jump the queue. Everyone with so much as one grey hair on their head leaped forward.

One passionate voter cried: “I’m not, but my nanny is!”

She flapped her ID book at the nanny standing behind her and clutching the child, who obviously had to come along for the ride. And, obviously too, nanny had to vote as well as madam, so she might as well carry Kiddy. I was just wondering why the nanny was still working as a childminder if she was a pensioner when the IEC guy generously waved all three to the head of the queue, lock, stock and Kiddy.

I looked around. Five metres away, a man was monologuing cheerfully about his memories of voting in 1994. “Twenty years!” he enthused. ANC voter, I thought.

A man ahead of me was clearly planning to go straight to the gym after making his X, for he was attired in some shiny, new, tight-fitting fabrics and very expensive tackies, and he had that determined clench of the jaw that simply screams Virgin Active. He’ll vote DA.

I checked my phone for any last-minute messages from the political parties. None. Of course, over the past few weeks, the DA has SMSed everyone and their dog, about 400 times a day, so no excitement, even if they did send another plea. I was pleased, though, to get a solitary text message from the ANC the day before the vote, though it was all in capital letters, so I felt that it was shouting at me.

Probably not allowed to SMS on voting day, I thought, sternly considering the rules of elections. We were recently reminded of them, not a moment too soon, by some big colour ads in the newspapers. No selfies in the booth, for one. No laughing when Nomvula Mokonyane falls off her high heels while trying to squash her ballot into the cardboard box.

By the way, I once saw a picture of our esteemed Gauteng premier taking part in a miniskirt march against sexual harassment –  but she wasn’t wearing a mini at all. Her big black skirt went right down to her knees! And that, I thought, is why we don’t trust politicians.

And I thought of it again as I perused the ballot form, in the voting booth at last. So many parties I’d never heard of. They didn’t even tell us they existed! Why can’t we, as a country, just get it down to a simple three or four parties? We’d save so much paper.

I nearly spoilt my ballot, not for Ronnie Kasserole’s sake, but because my hand was trembling and the pen was wavering. Then suddenly a great calm descended upon me, I saw everything with perfect clarity, and I was able to make a decision. Well, two decisions. Whew. What a relief.

And then I went back to bed.

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