I have always believed that one must vote.
But an insightful piece by journalist Ranjeni Munusamy before the elections questioned this hitherto unquestionable logic and I must say – as I saw how many voters chose to spoil ballots or simply stay away – I now question it too.
Choosing to withhold or spoil your vote, is also a democratic choice. Whilst it won’t assist in putting a politician into a seat in parliament, it does send a message that you are gatvol and no party deserves your vote. This year 235,449 people spoilt their vote. Well over 9 million people registered to vote but abstained. This is massive. People are clearly tiring of a system that does the same thing every few years, but for them doesn’t produce the promised change . Surely, we are entering a “post-democracy” era?
I have also heard it said that if you don’t vote you have no right to complain. Well, this is absurd. Firstly, everyone has a right to complain if they will. But more importantly, if you aren’t going to vote surely you should do something else to contribute to change? I am not a big fan of complaining but if you can’t vote, get involved in other ways. Write letters to your local press explaining why you chose not to vote. Get hold of your local ward councillor and demand accountability for specific needs within your community. Resolve to tackle racism in yourself and others. Get active in your local community: Start a community dialogue in which you discuss how to help your local school to perform better. Join your community block watch. Fix something that’s broken. Pick up litter. This is all doable regardless of who you are and what your situation is.
I did vote and I was excited to exercise that right. But as
far as political choices were concerned, I was deeply conflicted. Had I been true
to myself I wouldn’t have voted.
The truth is that to vote, withhold or spoil our vote is the end of our role as citizens of a democracy, unless we are prepared to participate for change beyond the ballot box. We can no longer delegate the running of our lives and our country to politicians and bureaucrats. This dance is up, and it didn’t work particularly well in the first place.
We must show up as active citizens every day between
elections and contribute in ways that build our people and our country.
Then we will watch our country rise.
We are just days away from our South African general election and still I feel undecided over which party to vote for.
Most of the people I speak to feel the same and the wildly differing research polls seem to confirm that many of us are conflicted over this election and all bets are off.
This was demonstrated to me on a recent work trip I had in the heart of the Northern Cape. My stereotypes got a severe beating when two wonderful middle-aged ladies – both white and Afrikaans – stated quite frankly that they were voting for the EFF and the ANC respectively. Change is in the air, ne?
As I reflect on this dilemma – an unusual one given the fact
that loyalty to political parties can be hard to change – my sense is that this
is just where we need to be. 25 years into democracy, we need to be confused,
questioning our old patterns and looking at fresh options. This makes the
possibility of change real. And we
desperately need change.
When I work with my clients, we often use the words
attributed to Albert Einstein: “You cannot solve problems with the same mind
that created them.” In order to improve the world, we need to literally change
our minds (not only our decisions, but rather the actual way we think about
things) in order to solve problems and create new realities. This involves
changing the way we think about the world; it involves shifting our
single-story narratives and it involves changing the ways we show up in the
world. Christians call this “putting on the mind of Christ”. Buddhists call
this sunyata. It all points to emptying the mind of the thought patterns that
created the problems in the first place in order to discover a new reality and
way of being.
Democracy without citizens involved in active processes of
changing their minds (and hence their governments) is autocracy. We can kid
ourselves that we are a democracy – and on paper we are – but robotic,
repetitive voting patterns create Mugabe’s and indeed Zuma’s. Only when minds
change does power change. That is what makes democracy good (citizens have the
power to change who is in power) and terrifying (if the people are trying to
solve problems with the same minds that created them).
Could this election be the start of a new consciousness in
South Africa; the start of us changing our collective mind? Could it be that we
stop thinking/voting/not voting the same way we have done since 1994? I am
talking to all of us here – regardless of political affiliation. I believe so.
Power won’t change, but how power shows up and how we respond to power most
certainly will. We are putting power – all power – on terms. This election is a
Come on – let’s change our minds.
I’d love to hear from you and how you feel about the upcoming election, and your process of deciding who to vote for. Send through your comments and let’s be an involved community sharing our thoughts and experiences.