William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Vukani! Don’t waste your widow’s mite on May 7

Power is the currency of politics. Experienced politicians know instinctually when to hoard it, when to spend it and when to convert it into a bankable alternative. So for a brace of former Cabinet ministers to suggest voters should squander their power – their widow’s mite of the vote – by throwing it away, is bizarre indeed.

Launched this week, the Sudikiwe! Vukani! Vote NO! campaign – translating as: “We are fed up!” “Wake up!” – is spearheaded by former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge. Madlala-Routledge, rather bizarrely, explained that the campaign was designed to “encourage greater public participation” in the May 7 general election and that it was a means for disgruntled voters “to use their vote … a very powerful tool … to express their disillusionment” with the ANC-run government.

Although the campaign is meant to encourage either a spoilt ballot or a vote for an unspecified minority party, it got off to an unfortunate start when it became clear that many voters misunderstood it to be a “don’t vote” campaign. A number of people interviewed in the media have, correctly, articulated forcefully that the fruit of the Struggle was the vote and there was a moral obligation to use it.

Adding to the confusion, the organisers – self-proclaimed socialists – only belatedly realised that the campaign might benefit the pro-business Democratic Alliance, the largest opposition party. So the DA was hastily struck from the recommended voting list. It’s all degenerating into the Monty Python cheese shop skit, where the shopper has a theoretically limitless choice but every choice he makes turns out not to be available.

The campaign is tactically inept – launching so late, less than a month from the election, smacks of impulsivity and a lack of planning – and is strategically confused. If it is meant to make the ANC see the error of its ways and return to the one true socialist path, then it makes sense to specify parties on the left to which disenchanted ANC voters should transfer their allegiance.

After all, it will advance Kasril’s national democratic revolution not one iota for the “no ANC” voters to turn out for the African Christian Democratic Party or the Freedom Front. That means Sudikiwe! Vukani! coming out in favour of the hard left: the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) or the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), or the as yet electorally untested Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The success of the Sudikiwe! Vukani! campaign would be easily measurable, were it to support the PAC and Azapo. These two are minor league players and in 2009 together a mere 86 000 votes and two parliamentary seats.

But here is where it gets really difficult for Kasrils and Co. The PAC is in an electoral alliance with the EFF.

And the EFF, for all its socialist and revolutionary rhetoric, is a neo-fascist nationalist movement led by a bile-spitting racist who was expelled from the ANC for his lack of discipline and who has racked up fraud, corruption, money-laundering and racketeering charges, as well as a R16-million tax bill for questionable tenderpreneurial activities – the kind of behaviour that communists like Kasrils call ‘rent-seeking’ – that culminated in his provisional sequestration. Suddenly Kasril’s anti-ANC moral high road is looking a little rubble strewn.

How much simpler it would have been for the discontented ANC veterans if there was a true socialist party. Wait, there is! There’s the South African Communist Party (SACP) to which both Kasrils and Madlala-Routledge belong.

The SACP, however, is perhaps unique in the world, in that it now has been a partner in government for 20 years, always well represented at Cabinet level and pontificating endlessly about socialism, but has never had the schlepp of having to contest an election. Coat-tailing on the back of the ANC has always suited it better than having to explain its “vanguard” role to the masses.

The SACP is not about to abandon this cosy clientilism. SACP secretary-general Blade Nzimande has already lashed out at the Sudikiwe! Vukani! organisers for being nothing more than “well known factory faults”.

There is, of course, an honourable history to the spoilt ballot tactic but only in constituency-based systems. It’s a means of indicating dissatisfaction with the choice available, when one’s preferred party has not put up a candidate where one is registered. However, the one great advantage of SA’s proportional representation system is that every vote counts, whether you live in a Sandton penthouse and want to vote for Azapo or in a Nkandla mud hut and want to vote for the DA.

It’s worth emphasising. Every. Vote. Counts. You have only one vote. Spend your widow’s mite wisely.

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