If we don't vote we deserve the pain coming our way
This week South Africans go to the polls in an election that was originally predicted to be hotly contested. A lot of citizens were thought to be very keen for 2019 to arrive so they could exercise their vote decisively. But this was not to be. Many citizens have lost a sense of their agency and are spectators in the electoral game.
It has been a lacklustre election campaign and all the polls indicate that we are headed for the maintenance of the status quo. If you are reading this and you have registered to vote, please do go out there and cast your vote. All polls indicate that the ANC will still come out tops, albeit with a reduced majority. The DA will shrink and the EFF will grow marginally, but essentially power is not about to change hands even in borderline cases like Gauteng.
All these predictions, however, move from the sad assumption of poor voter turnout. Some 40% of registered voters are said to have chosen not to vote. This makes my stomach churn. If at least 80% vote there is a chance of achieving a different result to the status quo. But it looks like this is the die that has been cast in SA - a country that was the skunk of the world because of disenfranchisement for decades on end. Our leaders went around the world appealing to the international community to help us secure our right to vote. Some lost their lives in the process.
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This week I was reminded of Father Michael Lapsley, a former ANC chaplain in exile. In April 1990, when former president FW de Klerk was pretending that there was a ceasefire of hostilities and was wining and dining the ANC leadership in Stellenbosch, Lapsley received a letter bomb in Zimbabwe.
That bomb ripped apart both his hands and one eye, leaving him disabled for life. He lived to tell the tale.
There are many Michael Lapsleys out there who live with the scars of our horrific past. They are a constant reminder of the sacrifices that were made for our freedom and the right to vote. Others, like Chris Hani, were not so lucky.
How do you sit on your vote when so much was sacrificed for it? It really baffles me completely. So many, like Nelson Mandela, were incarcerated, yet 40% of the population seems to have quickly forgotten their sacrifice.
I know that some of those who came after Mandela are embarrassing and crooked. But they cannot dictate to you to lose your agency. It is not a reason to abandon your fundamental right to determine who must lead this country. To have a government in office by default would be an insult to Lapsley, who lives with a permanent disability. It must make Chris Hani turn in his grave to see what he died for.
I am lamenting this loss of agency but must also make a point of noting that many of those who have decided to sit on the fence will tomorrow be barricading roads in protest when the same leaders they didn't vote for fail communities, like in Alex, where people stole money meant for development. I suppose those who live in poverty yet keep voting the same way are also to blame, but at least they are voting.
Frankly, I have no sympathy for such people. The pain of unemployment and poverty will continue until we all take a stand. If we don't take that stand and vote, we deserve every pain that is coming our way. We deserve all the suffering that is a result of the continuation of the lethargy of the past 25 years.
The choices of parties that can change the lot of our people are limited, but only through voting can we send the message that these parties must hear - a message that says service to the people is what really matters, not elevating party political flags. The situation now has deteriorated to the point where parties put themselves first and the people last.
All parties shamelessly campaigned in Alex on the back of the misery of the downtrodden masses. And sadly the masses entertained them if the political rallies happening there are anything to go by. The state of Alex is a shameful symbol of how our people have been fooled and failed repeatedly - the very result of daylight theft by leaders as well as their lack of priorities.
• Tabane is host of Your View on Newzroom Afrika