If you are anything like me, I have been asking that a lot these past few months – who do I vote for? Who can I trust to get the job done? Which of the two or three or four evils do I cast my ballot against? So I decided that for the first time since I came of age, I will not vote. I will not be put into a corner and forced to vote for parties who make empty promises; who serve only themselves, who steal from those very people they are elected to serve or who only serve the rich, so that the system works for them.
But just a few hours ago, I was sitting in my office having a meeting with a teammate when we heard gunshots for at least 15 seconds. This was followed by screaming coming from down the road. I jumped up from my chair and saw people running and panicked. A picture in my head that I can’t erase is of a grandfather with his grandchild in a pram and a toddler next to them, running down the road for safety. Some people running away from the gun shots and some running towards. Young men running with excitement to get involved and the vulnerable, scared and running for their lives. I saw my team shaking in fear and our minds trying to figure out what had just happened and were we all okay.
You see, every morning when we drive or walk into work, there is a long queue of about 50 to 60 people waiting for their SASSA grants at the post office. At first, I have been concerned about Covid infections from the long queues, but lately I have noticed more and more people lining up earlier and earlier. This has been going on since the Covid Relief Grant was first issued. We have seen more and more children drop out of school in the community; graffiti painting our walls with signs of old and new gangs forming; people sitting on corners; clients begging for food and petty crimes increasing around our neighbourhood.
The hypocrisy of the shooting event earlier today was that just a few minutes before we had a parade going down the road from a certain political party, trying to get the community to vote for them so that they can change the lives. But when the incident happened it was silent; no parade, no showing up, no one dancing and walking the street promising that voting for them will change their lives.
The reality is that our country is a mess. Our youth unemployment has increased to unheard of highs; we have over 700 000 children who have dropped out of school since the 2020 lockdown; and I live in a city where there is increased inequality and a governing party who chooses to ignore systemic racism and to work to close the gaps of inequality. We see daily corruption on all levels of government and civil society, children falling through the cracks in our systems, a growing mental health crisis, a poor Covid vaccination strategy and the list goes on.
So, I have decided that I will vote. But I am not voting for the party who I think I can get behind. No. I am voting strategically this year. I will be voting so that my vote helps to strengthen our democratic right to receive responsive governance in my municipality. You see, me choosing not to vote gives politicians’ power, those who think they have the vote in the bag. And I will not allow politicians to think we are puppets, but rather make them work to stay in power, to ensure that I can see the results particularly in our marginalized communities. Unfortunately, competitive politics is the only way we can sustain our democracy, though I do think we need to rewrite our political system but that’s another blog for another day.
I refuse to give up on our country. I believe that we still have so much to offer and despite the darkness that fell over me today, I will cast my vote on the 1st of November, and I hope you do too.
Written by Danielle Moosajie, Arise Director