3 May 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - Abahlali's Choice


Political identity is a strange thing. In the run-up to an election, we are asked - over and over again - to identify ourselves with political parties. We are asked to remember our histories and follow our family's old allegiances. We are instructed to forget those histories, and face the future.

We are expected to identify with the faces on political posters and see ourselves reflected in them. On 2 May, the shack-dwellers' movement of South Africa, Abahlali baseMjondolo, endorsed the Democratic Alliance in this week's upcoming provincial elections. A storm of controversy has erupted.

A large percentage of South Africans are unconvinced by this, of course. The major parties seem bankrupt, devoid of new ideas. Their claims on our identities are absurd and overblown. For many of us, the choice between parties is no choice at all: it is just a matter of preferring one tone of voice, one temperament, one set of berets, and one set of unconvincing promises over another.

The "Vote No" campaign is - in its own way - a response to this, with its conviction that we have no plausible alternatives within the electoral system. The solution, it suggests, is to...

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