23 April 2019

South Africa: Spoiling the Ballot - I'm Not Ready to Vote

opinion

As the national government elections approach, journalism students from the universities of Free State, University of Venda and University of Pretoria have taken time out to reflect on factors which will influence their decisions to vote or not to. Precious Mamotingoe Lesupi, UFS journalism student, reflects on why she will be sprinting away from the ballot box.

Growing up, election season was always a major issue around the house. My dad had the television on whatever channel the ANC was on. As a result, we were automatically an ANC supporting household. I reckoned it was because of all the "struggle" stories we dozed off to.

Things changed drastically when former president Jacob Zuma was in power.

My dad wasn't so crazy about the ANC anymore. In fact, he was pretty angry at them. I was too young to register to vote and my brother, who was over 18 and could legitimately place his 'x' was somehow coerced into going to the ballot box. I recall back in 2014 when they got back from the voting station. Dad said he'd voted COPE, mom said she'd voted DA and my brother threw in an unmarked ballot paper.

I'm reflecting on these memories as we approach the national elections and my position. I am not registered to vote. No one at home is. I have never been registered and possibly never will be. I chose not to because our country frowns upon my generation's struggles. I also have fears of putting someone in power who will give us another Khwezi. Besides, I have no idea whatsoever on the criteria for picking the right political party to vote for. Do we pick based on how lucrative their promises seem? Perhaps the number of corruption charges or sexual assault claims they are facing. The fewer the better, right?

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), 81% of new registrations are under 30 years of age. As much as the nation would like to believe this to be their idea of change, I doubt half that percentage will make it to the ballot box. I base this on conversations I have had with peers. One of them being Regomoditswe Choane, a student at the University of the Free State.

According to her, her "family's influence" was her predominant reason for registering to vote.

At the end of it all, my thoughts also drift towards how we need to think about how realistic pre-election political promises are.

In its manifesto the EFF says that all banks and other financial institutions would have to change to majority black ownership within just 12 months. While this seems like a great idea, the country would suffer massive economic disaster in those 12 months. The ANC on the other hand is promising that all undergraduate students will be funded fully by NSFAS by 2024. This is mentioned in a manifesto released the same month as the World Bank's warning that providing free tertiary education in terms of the current government's model is financially unsustainable. While most parties seem to be working on impressing the youth, the DA has been focusing a lot on discrediting other political parties.

Maybe one day I will register to vote. Not yet. Not as long as our struggles are ignored and not as long as femicide and suicide rates rapidly increase. As long as homophobic and transphobic hate crimes become more brutal, as long as we have people in power getting away with rape, I will sprint as far away from the ballot as possible.

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