A fifth election in a 20 year old democracy took place in South Africa yesterday 7th of May. Yet awaiting the final election results, it will hardly offer many surprises. As the first post-apartheid generation took to the polls in South Africa the pre-predicted outcome of the elections seem inevitable. The African National Congress (ANC) party is in clear lead and Jacob Zuma can probably congratulate himself with another term as President of South Africa. But something is changed. Nelson Mandela is gone, no longer there to protect the rainbow nation. Gone is also part of the optimism South Africa used to be surrounded with, replaced with growing anger and a call for change.
The South Africans are increasingly expressing their dissatisfaction with a corrupt state, parts of which have been fronted by disillusioned ANC loyalists calling themselves ‘sidikwe’ meaning ‘fed up’ in Xhosa. Former African National Congress (ANC) members have demonstrated their dissent by promoting the “Sidikiwe! Vukani! Vote No! Campaign” led by former Minister of Intelligence, Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy Health Minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge. The ‘sidikwe’ has encouraged South Africans to look for an alternative to ANC or alternatively to write ‘no’ across the ballot implicitly wasting the vote. Tactical voting they call it, and perhaps that is so.
Luckily, the initial figures indicate only a small percentage of wasted ballots. We say luckily because voting ‘no’ does not foster an alternative to ANC if that is what the majority wants. ANC is expected to receive far lower share of the votes compared to the figures at the previous election. We are on the right path to consolidate the South African democracy and that can only be done by its citizens. Change! Yes, but to what? Many remain loyal to ANC – the party that led them out of the dark period of apartheid. We have witnessed how the Democratic Alliance has grown to become a realistic opponent to ANC. The point is not that we express dissatisfaction. It is how we express it that count. If we want change, we vote for that change – a privilege many have only enjoyed the past 20 years.
The citizens of South Africa fought a hard fight to gain the democratic ‘right to vote’. To give this away would be to deny the very system the South African nation and its citizens was fighting so hard for guided by Nelson Mandela. We should not waste it. South Africa’s democracy is still young and fragile. We should not fall into the trap of thinking that voting is a waste and let’s hope we did not. Living in a democracy does not mean living with alternatives we all are happy with. If the acknowledgment of living in a corrupt regime is what it takes to promote change we have already come a long way. Looking back to pre-1994, we should not doubt that we – as a nation – have made enormous progress. That parts could be done better is also not questioned but slowly, we are getting there.