By Sydney Ainsworth Majoko
The advent of democracy in South Africa should have brought with it a level of freedom not experienced before. One of the most difficult things one can face in a liberal democracy is having the right to vote but also a feeling of “damned if I vote this way and damned if I vote that way”. It shouldn’t be so but that’s the territory I find myself in. For the purposes of this piece I will come out of the political closet for you. I have voted one way since our first election in 1994, and I’m proud to say that my first vote contributed to bringing Nelson Mandela into power that year.
Increasingly I have become uncomfortable with casting my vote that way. I am one of many citizens who have come to the conclusion that the ruling party is rendering itself ineffective in its mandate in the fight against poverty due to its inability to transform itself into an effective unit due to leadership wrangles inside the party. I hear you say if you are unhappy with the way they are leading why don’t you simply vote them out, vote for another party. In other words DA, Agang or God forbid, the EFF!
I know it’s quite rich to say a vote for anything other than the ANC or DA is a wasted vote but that’s how I see it. Just tell me one significant thing that has come from any of the minority parties since we attained democracy. Even Patricia de Lille, with a significant voter base saw the futility of having seven seats in Parliament and threw in her lot with the DA years ago.
The DA has its roots in the former Democratic Party, the official opposition in the then whites-only apartheid parliament. When I’m asked why I cannot see the DA as a political alternative my unspoken answer is that I find it difficult to cast my vote into the same basket as the majority of the people who voted for years to keep me disenfranchised.
That’s a little harsh you might say: DA leader Helen Zille and her predecessor Tony Leon did so much to transform the party. Look, they even won in the Western Cape, the only province where they are in power, out of nine provinces. It’s also noteworthy that the Western Cape is the only province whose demographics have black Africans not in majority. In other words most of the people who vote DA in that province are the same people that kept me disenfranchised. The DA has chosen that province to be their flagship province, with party leader Helen Zille as premier.
My interests and the interests of the majority of the people in the Western Cape cannot be the same if they are voting for a party that could in 2009 find it acceptable to place in power a male-only provincial cabinet with their party leader as premier. Just as laughable as suggestions that no suitable female candidate exists to lead the ANC! Really?
One question that is on people’s minds but everybody is afraid to ask out loud is why is it so difficult for the DA to attract leaders with tested “struggle credentials”? Leaders who have become disillusioned with the ruling party? There have been three significant breakaways from the ruling party in the last 20 years. Bantu Holomisa and his United Democratic Movement, Mosiuoa Lekota and his Congress of the People and recently the Economic Freedom Fighters. Add to the list the respected struggle veteran, academic and businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele and her Agang party that’s four major political formations that have all failed to find common ground with the Democratic Alliance. And you expect me to vote for them?
The DA’s biggest failure has its reluctance to make a clean break with the past.
At the height of his political career then DA-leader Tony Leon led a campaign titled “Fight Back”, urging voters to “fight back” against an ANC two-thirds majority in Parliament. Political satirists had a field day insinuating that the actual slogan was “Fight Black”, since their opposition was the predominantly black ANC. Beneath the satire though lay a real concern by people who genuinely thought the DA had something to offer but were now worried that their party was waging a campaign based on the fact that there was something to fear in a “black” two-thirds majority in Parliament. That, dear Zille is what you ought to play away from if you are to gain some credibility in the majority of this country.
Recently, the DA has joined the continued persecution of Robert McBride. I know of no other person who has been hounded for his role in the struggle as much as McBride has, but he has fought back and managed to survive. In my eyes, and in the eyes of many people who were oppressed, McBride remains a hero, not for killing civilians, but for having nearly given his life for the cause of our liberation.
Now, when he gets nominated to lead a police watchdog unit and the DA leads the chorus of the people who are opposed to his appointment I get very disturbed. To the level of asking myself: Is the DA so bitter about McBride’s role in the struggle against apartheid that it would spend so much of its time fighting alongside those who wish McBride had been hanged for fighting for our liberation?
A man dubbed Dr Death, Wouter Basson, has miraculously escaped conviction for his role in the apartheid army, where, by his own admission he produced chemical weapons some of which were used against MK and Namibian freedom fighters. This man, because the National Prosecuting Authority bungled his prosecution, continues to practice medicine as though nothing has happened. The families of his victims have not had the privilege of hearing him apologise for his role in the atrocities that killed their loved ones.
The DA has been dead silent on the issue. Not even a word in support of the families of victims who are now only wishing that he can be struck off the roll of medical practitioners as consolation for his atrocities. Nothing from the DA. My question to the DA is: Why the silence?
I need to apologise to McBride for the juxtaposition above because no matter how many people make the comparison: his actions were for a righteous cause and Dr Death’s actions were in protecting a system that the United Nations had dubbed a crime against humanity.
As long as the DA keeps on appearing to side with former oppressors, those that were oppressed will continue to view them as not worthy of their vote. And please, don’t get me wrong, advancing my reasons for not wanting to vote DA does not in any way mean I will vote ANC. I’m about to drive under two e-toll gantries on my way home, brought to me by the ANC, need I say more?
Sydney Ainsworth Majoko is a blogger who writes in his personal capacity and runs a small business for a living. www.sydneymajoko.wordpress.com