27 March 2014

South Africa: Should You Spoil Your Ballot?

The campaign now under way to encourage a protest against government by spoiling ballots has been left far too late, especially if the object is to build a coherent and mass, grassroots campaign to promote some kind of alternative.

Such a campaign should also have a clear -- and clearly expressed -- aim. I don't think this has been the case. Many grassroots activists could, with justification, see this as yet another "top-down" initiative.

The present drive also seems to be directed toward those voters who feel that the ANC, as presently constituted, can be part of a solution. I think the ANC is part of the problem -- and, because of its composition, continues to be an hierarchical organisation in which corruption has existed for decades.

What should be considered, for example, is the 1969 "Hani memo" referring to corruption and nepotism -- the "rot" as those dissidents put it -- in the ANC, let alone the abuses and corruption in exile in Angola, Zambia and Tanzania. As someone who lived in Zambia in the 1960s and in an ANC camp in the 1980s, I can personally attest to the fact that this element of "rot" was always present.

Post 1994 there was the dropping of corruption charges against Sol Kerzner -- who gave a R2 million donation to the ANC -- and the refusal to charge government minister Stella Sigcau for corruptly pocketing R50,000 from Kerzner. The ANC MP who raised these issues was Bantubonke Holomisa. He was sacked for doing so and went on the establish the UDM.

Then there was the terrible tragedy of AIDS denialism and the grossly expensive debacle of the arms deal. And all of that was before Polokwane and the ascent of the present leadership of the ANC.

Today, I fear we are on the cusp of a very dangerous period with accountability lacking, the police in many respects out of control and the the Promotion of State Security legislation -- the "Secrecy Bill" -- merely awaiting presidential signature.

It therefore seems vital to me that that ANC be accorded the lowest possible vote, and that a movement be built to promote an extension of democracy with its attendant principles of transparency and accountability. Abstention and spoiling will not, I think, be the way.

For those who still harbour ideas of putting the ANC "back on track" by getting rid of the long established rot, why not vote for the UDM? The overall policies of the UDM are not that much different from those of the government, and the leader is someone who, whatever else his faults may be, was expelled for being honest and exposing corruption, most recently in blowing the whistle on Pansy Tlakula of the IEC.

For those who wish to signal that a socialist orientation of some sort is necessary, a vote for the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp) is possible. Ballots can be cast, without illusions, for both these parties -- while being secure in the knowledge that neither of them will become the government.

This strikes me as a far more effective protest than spoiling. And perhaps, after this general election, all of the disillusioned and concerned should get together to try to build a truly democratic alternative in time for the local government elections in 2016. The electoral system then is also more democratic than the party list operated at the national and provincial levels.

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