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Why I have decided to vote for a pro-poor political party

I have made my voting choice. Here is my thinking.

Firstly, these are local elections and, as a result, no major policy can be tested. I am also not certain that this election, or even our next national elections, are going to lead to any substantial transformation no matter who we vote for. I do not believe that the current political system does much more than maintain the status quo. We are on a very dangerous trajectory heading to more inequality and poverty. Our economy is built on exploitation and human suffering. Voting makes very little difference to the trajectory and I understand many who are choosing not to vote. I however, in this election, will vote.

To truly transform South Africa we require a political, economic, moral and spiritual revolution. This is why I have moved to Hillbrow: to demonstrate what this new world could look like. Spiritually, the church has bought into the values of this world that are driving the moral crises we face. Greed, consumerism, materialism, individualism , patriarchy and racism are as much evident in the church as they are anywhere else in society. If we want to see change in the world, we need to start with change in ourselves. We need to be communities that pay living wages, live in environmentally sustainable ways and share and demonstrate that it is possible to live in communities where there is not a needy person among us. The moral crisis we face in South Africa has very little to do with issues of the loins and much more to do with how we spend our coins. Greed has colluded with power to entrench the riches of a few and this has resulted in one of the biggest humanitarian crises in our history. We need a war on poverty and to cease the war on the poor.

I further believe that political and economic transformation will not be possible without a new vision-led social movement. In my view, this requires a new Freedom Charter-type process and a new or reformulated UDF. I believe the newly-formed trade union federation is a good step forward.

The questions which will inform my vote in this election are:
1. Who will advocate the most for the poor?
2. Who will advocate to address inequality?
3. Who will challenge the exploitative base of our economy?
4. Who is best articulating the voice of the majority?
5. Who will, at local level, work to stop the war on the poor (stop “clean up” operations where the most vulnerable are targeted)?
6. How do we empower those beginning to think of a different economy to gain governance experience and have their ideas tested in and through debate?
7. Who will advocate for pro-poor service delivery and seek to redress the imbalances in service delivery in our municipalities?
Looking at the current options of major political parties starting with the ANC, the party has sadly been captured by greedy corrupt oligarchs and, despite many good people and many good policies, is, in my view, in need of major reformation and is radically in need of being sent to opposition benches all over the country so that it can reimagine itself. I will therefore not be voting ANC.

Now, as for the DA, they have a track record of being pro-middle class and still seem to not be very representative of the demographics of the country (race and class) in their leadership structures. The constant court cases and advocacy by pro-social justice organisations to ensure equity in service delivery in their municipalities and to prevent the sale of land in the interests of the rich seem to point to a pattern that they are a party which is not really interested in the poor (although their manifesto says differently). They seem to talk clean government but they too practice cadre deployment and seem to constantly act in the interests of the rich. I will therefore not be voting DA.

I voted for the EFF in the last national elections and I think I have got much more value than voters who voted for other opposition parties. I think they make a great opposition in that they constantly pull the debate towards the poor. They have put the issue of economic transformation on the agenda and we need much more debate in South Africa about what this can look like. Julius Malema is really good for our country. He seems to be one of the few who is able to challenge power. They have achieved much more than any other opposition party in Parliament when it comes to holding the ANC to account for their destruction of our constitution and democracy. The fact that many in their leadership are drawn from the poorest of the poor is encouraging as well. Giving them the opportunity to govern a few areas in the country, to have councillors in major cities and to advocate for a more pro-poor agenda is a very healthy thing for our democracy. I think they will do well. The EFF is therefore the party that I will most likely vote for in these elections.

Let me further say that I have not joined the EFF. I don’t have to. At the moment my political autonomy is important to me. These are local government elections and I need to place an “X” on the ballot. My proximity to the poor as a result of moving to Hillbrow has opened my eyes to see who is most passionate about the most vulnerable and, from where I stand, it is the EFF. They are all over every issue affecting the most vulnerable. They are at service delivery protests, helping at evictions and protecting street vendors. Basically wherever people need help in my community, the EFF are organising. So my “X” will go next to that box.

I still however maintain the major revolution we need starts with dealing with the issues of greed, racism, individualism, materialism, patriarchy and consumerism in ourselves. We will not move South Africa forward without this.

Nigel and Trish Branken live together with their six children in the inner-city suburb, Hillbrow, in Johannesburg. The Brankens started neighbours.org, an intentional Christian community that stands in solidarity with the residents of Hillbrow and communities deeply impacted by poverty, inequality and injustice around South Africa.

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    • gksa

      I am unconvinced that the EFF is passionate about anything but power, and the trappings of success that comes with it – “the most vulnerable” seems to be just a vehicle to get them there. Pageantry on a grand scale. There have been sufficient questions raised about Malema & Co.’s financial dealings – and where there is smoke, there usually is fire.

      Perhaps the rank and file of the party is different from the leadership, and truly committed to change for the better for all citizens – but that just gives us a different iteration of the current ANC.

      As for holding the ANC to account, I think a few specific examples of where the EFF has truly held the ANC to account would be apposite, since I have seen mostly non-effectual noise. Aside from a Constitutional Court case that resulted in our “first citizen” having to pay back a tiny fraction of the money wasted on his Nkandla houses – which the DA was as much party to as the EFF – I really haven’t seen much tangible results.