No one to vote for, but at least we can vote
Whatever fresh hell the next five years brings after May 8, there is this good news that remains unsullied
Once, it would have been a solid play by higher education minister Naledi Pandor. But on Sunday, when she read the instructions printed on the front of the red box – “In case of electoral dumpster fire, break glass” – and cracked it open with a little silver hammer, nobody really seemed to care.
On paper, settling student debts totalling R967m was good electioneering, but when it comes to the ANC that paper is toilet paper. We are now so deep in the muck that when some official pulls a rabbit out of a hat, my first instinct is to assume the rabbit is dead and to ask where they stole the hat.
To be fair, the ANC isn’t the only party that seems to have lost the will to campaign. None of the other major contenders have found new or interesting ways to make the same old promises.
Then again, perhaps that’s inevitable just six weeks before an election. There’s lots of talk of winning undecided votes, and the comment and analysis pours out as if there is everything to play for. But politicians only succeed if they can read people the way bogus psychics can read the tiniest twitches of body language and tone, and right now they know that you’ve already decided.
Granted, it still feels a bit vague: you haven’t decided in a shouty, proselytising sort of way. You’re not about to tell anyone which way you’re going, especially not if you’re planning to vote for the DA, a party apparently reviled by 95% of citizens while winning over 20% of their votes. But you know where you’re putting your X, and why.
You’re voting ANC because Ramaphosa is restoring the party to its former heights, and because there are elements in the DA that want to bring back apartheid.
You’re voting DA because, while they might be charmless, periodically gormless, and arguably leaderless, they’re the only people who know how to balance books and keep the lights on, and a vote for any other party is a vote for a failed state.
You’re voting EFF because the Commander-In-Chief is a visionary and the only way poverty is going to end is with the destruction of the capitalist obscenity that is so-called South Africa.
You’re voting IFP because Prince Buthelezi understands your identity and your struggles, and because the ANC is corrupt and violent.
You’re voting UDM because the General is the canniest street fighter in parliament.
You’re voting FF+ because minority rights need to be guarded, especially in a country where corrupt ethnic nationalists use explicit threats against minorities as a way to whip up support.
You’re voting COPE because what this country needs is a combination of the best aspects of the ANC and the DA.
You’re voting ACDP because the world is turning its back on God and we need more divine leadership in government, and because the death penalty is the only way to hit back at the murderous criminals that operate with impunity.
And you’re voting BLF because Andile Mngxitama owes you money but promised he’d make you King of the Sky when he becomes emperor.
Of course I’m generalising. South Africa’s 26 million registered voters have hundreds of thousands of reasons for how and why they vote. For example, I know someone who voted for the DA in 2014 but who will probably be voting for Patricia de Lille’s GOOD in May: she believes most South African men are scumbags and will only support parties led by women. And so it goes, in endless permutations, in millions of homes.
Yes, in the next six weeks some commentators will be preaching to the choir. But since you’re up there in the gallery and I’m over here in the pulpit, allow me to step back from the maddening minutiae of daily politics and refer you to the fundamental text. Let me preach the good news that remains unsullied, despite all the wrath and the inevitable messiness of the next five years, when coalition politics will usher in fresh hells. Let me remind you that May’s election is a true, even miraculous, blessing.
It will be only the sixth time in at least 367 years that all South Africans will be able to choose their leaders. Its rarity alone makes it priceless.
It will, we can assume, be free and fair. Many countries have bled to death before they have come close to this achievement.
Best of all, it will see us going to the polls more suspicious of politicians than we have ever been.
Those politicians would have us believe that our suspicion is anxiety or even fear.
It isn’t. It is experience. It is the beginning of maturity.
And, maybe, a small spark of hope.