I walk into the voting station and a surge of emotion overcomes me, maybe it’s adrenaline or my mind is beginning to realise what I’m about to do, I don’t know, I’m not a shrink.
I first tell the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) official who had my identity document (ID) to handle it with care because it’s in pieces, literally. I even tried to staple the pages together at some point because I wanted to prevent the pages from falling off, but some of the staples have fallen off. The black and white photo in the green ID does not look anything like the owner. In the photo I look like a criminal, a wanted man, in fact it looks like a mugshot. Before I even present it to the IEC official I tell her that I promise the man inside there, who doesn’t look like me, is in fact me. She opens the ID, looks at me and does not believe that it’s me. Then she says she can tell by the eyes, she laughs and shows the unfortunate ID photo to another official, who laughs at the state of the ID then at me. I’m unperturbed, I experience this mockery every time I go to a bank.
In fact I experienced it outside while in the queue when my so-called friends (yes, you Xolisa, Anele, Fix, Simone and Sizwe) laughed their rear ends off, first at the state of my ID which has seen many a washing machine trips, then at my photo. They mocked me by playing cards with its pages. Fix even had the audacity to impersonate the host of an ancient TV programme, “Ngomgqibelo Kamukibelo”. She pretended that the pages of my ID were money. She counted as she handed me the pages one by one by shouting, and all of them in unison, “One hundred! Two hundred! Three hundred!” Not funny.
I can feel the anxiety rush through me and I try to distract myself by talking to the bored and tired election officials. They direct me to the lady that’s going to put ink on my thumb to prove that I had in fact voted. I notice that she looks tired and irritable, I mention this to her and she tells me she’d been there since 6 in the morning. As she paints my thumb with the purple ink I tell her that I am disappointed with her job because, “I thought you were going to write, ‘I love Khaya’”. She laughs and retorts by saying “Maybe next time”. At least I leave her smiling. My heart is pounding and I feel a little shaky.
I move on to the next table where I am given my ballot paper. I take it and make some stupid comment, as I am prone to do. The guy laughs, then I proclaim my nervousness and the official tells me to go do my duty for my country, I oblige. I arrive at the booth and unfold my ballot and see the million and one party names on the ballot paper and realise that a number of trees no longer exist so we could vote.
After unfolding my ballot, just before I make my cross, I put my hands on my face for a couple of seconds and say a little prayer, my heart is beating from what I can imagine is adrenaline. I look down and I see the ANC, DA and Cope. Those are the only parties I see for some reason. I take a deep breath. I can’t believe I’m about to vote for anyone but the ANC. I reach out for the pen inside the booth and lift it towards me. I put my hands on my face again and ask God to help me be guided by reason and not emotion. After all I will not be voting for the party of Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and many other heroes. I did not anticipate the profound trauma I would feel.
The moments before putting the cross are traumatic. Eventually I make my mark next to Cope. It feels good but I am emotioned out. Earlier, a cousin of mine had told us that voting felt very emotional for him, especially realising that he was not voting for the ANC. I just thought that he was being a girl. I took no heed to what he experienced.
I can imagine that some people who may have intended to put their cross next to Cope must have been so overwhelmed with emotion that they just marked by the green, gold and black flag.
Finally I will myself out of the voting booth after what seems like unaphakade (an eternity). I walk to the ballot box. I try to get over my emotional state by joking with the election official who has been given the mundane but crucial task of making sure that we insert our ballots in the cardboard ballot box. As I place my ballot in the box stuffed with ballot papers, I smile as though posing for a camera. I pose for a second anticipating a camera flash. I ask the election official, “Dude, where are the cameras and the news folk?” He laughs and tells me that maybe they didn’t know I was going to cast my vote over there.
In the car, my friends ask me if I was ok because I was very quite. I tell them I am. I am on my phone updating my twitter (follow me on http://twitter.com/khayadlanga). That was not the reason for my silence though, I was just coming to terms with what had happened in the voting booth. A lot was going through me. It was not easy not voting for something I had loved for so long. It felt like a break up. But voting for Cope felt right and amazing. Voting for this 125-day-old baby. She is a child that I have to look after now, take care of and make sure I never have to abandon her, or she me.