“Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.” Lyndon B. Johnson quotes (American 36th US President (1963-69). 1908–1973)
Elections are the lynch pin of any democracy. They are the ultimate form and exercise of people power (other than smart mobs and protesting, burning tires and toy-toying, that is). If elections don’t work, democracy doesn’t work. The choice made in the voting booth will determine the course of a community, city or country for years (case in point, the 34 agonising years of apartheid, endured by fallen heroes, and which left thousands walking around psychologically scarred, even today). Is there anything more dangerous to a democracy than an ill informed decision in the voting booth?
Politicians since time in memorial have tried every trick in the book to influence that decision. In a perfect democratic society the choice is a rational well thought and reasoned one. When the party espouses policies and values that further and match the preferences of an individual then it only makes sense that that person will vote for that. What happens when that decision is not rational, when something other than logic ranks in the decision making process.
In a rainbow nation that is all embracing and cosmopolitan nothing scares a politician more than a voter who will not vote based on the issues, but on irrelevant issues such as voting for Jacob Zuma because one hates Helen Zille’s South African flag skirt and DA branded sneaker’s which don’t scream ‘STYLE!’, or even worse, voting based on race. What would it mean if people were actually voting according to race? http://m.news24.com/news24/MyNews24/YourStory/Race-and-politics-20110404 The African National Congress – ANC – would be on a permanent holiday and the Democratic Alliance – DA – in a constant panic attack, with Helen losing sleep at night. I write this with the hope that this isn’t the case in our contemporary, open-minded, progressive, South Africa.
‘Voting in South Africa has nothing to do with race, finish and klaar’. Or so say the media. Ever since Mandela moved out of Robben Island there has been a plethora of papers, conferences, seminars, books, talks, studies and conversations about the ridiculousness of race having anything to do with the choice one makes in the voting booth. But what about those that feel the same way this fruit seller who says, “I’ll never vote for a black man, never! They don’t worry for us” does? http://www.publiceyenews.com/2011/05/16/mixed-race-vote-key-to-cape-town-in-s-africa-polls/
There are a myriad of articles, blogs and websites which discuss the idea that people vote according to racial affiliations; http://www.jstor.org/stable/4639910 , http://atlantapost.com/2011/04/14/its-campaign-season-in-south-africa-where-corruption-and-race-lead-the-agenda/ , http://www.the-african.org/blog/?p=309 , http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/transformation/v053/53.1davis.pdf and so on.
Is it true that the ANC has no white members and that the DA only recruits blacks when it’s time to put up election posters or shoot ‘vote for us’ commercials? Do commercials that, for example, feature a woman living in the township without electricity, but who is paid to lie that she does have electricity – thanks to a certain party’s efforts – inspire confidence in the parties concerned? If all this is true then there is really going to be a problem when the municipal results are announced: the DA could win everything in the Western Cape because the majority of whites are found there, and the ANC could take every other province. But is this nightmarish thought a possibility after 13 years of independence or merely unwarranted over-concern?
I hate to think about who really goes into a voting booth and decides to vote for a party based on the colour of the party’s leader? But is it a possibility? Obviously people read manifestos, interrogate policy prescriptions and proposals, learn the ethics and values of the party before saying, ‘yes, I will vote for this one because he/she will give me what I need.’ For people to vote around race is to say that everything is about skin colour. We know it’s not about culture otherwise the IFP and Minority Party would still be relevant and the NP would still be a party. But, is it about race? Do blacks don’t go around saying that ‘I don’t vote for the DA because it is for whites and coloureds only’ and do whites go around saying ‘I won’t vote for the ANC because its predominantly black’?
Service delivery seems to be the theme of the municipal elections every time they come around. Do people go into the booth and decide to vote for one because one vows to provide electricity, ensure timely garbage collection, or because they are promised toilets – with running water, which are enclosed for privacy, and which won’t need to be used as a decorative flower pot for its lack of function? Does race, in today’s South Africa, really mean anything? Does it matter whether the one delivering the mail is black, white, coloured or Indian, as long as the mail is being delivered? Most young voters really don’t know why they vote for the ANC. It probably seems like the natural thing to do since their grandparents were loyal to the party. Or maybe they vote because of ‘colourful’ and embarrassingly ‘as-deep-as-a-puddle’ characters such Julius, who make young black political aspirants look bad?
What is politics really? More and more whites seem to think that it’s a get rich easy scheme for blacks. Blacks are more likely to think whites are suffering from sour grapes syndrome. Indians and Chinese are now black – whatever works for them at the time. Coloureds would probably think they are still stuck in limbo; not black, not white, in a time when it seems everything is about black and white. What role is politics playing in eradicating the slow rot that is racial profiling?
Voter apathy is on the rise. More and more people, young and old, Indian, white, coloured or black couldn’t care less about elections. Most are grateful it’s a day off work. A chance to catch up on one’s favourite social activity: braaing/barbequing. There are many theories about why people decide not to vote, a couple come to mind: lack of education, feelings of helplessness, disillusionment, rebellion, pretty much the same things that stop people from participating.
Ultimately, the aim of your vote is to create the change you want to see. So a vote based on a ridiculous, non-progressive idea such as racism, is as good as you sending your South Africa to the chopping block and hoping, by some stroke of luck, that it survives. It is a blatant disrespect for the heroes that fought for our democracy and right to vote. So, do the right thing, LOVE YOUR SOUTH AFRICA by putting aside thoughts of a racial vote.