It’s just two days until plenty of youth, including myself, will be casting their vote for the first time in local government elections. Deciding on who to select as the caretaker of my neighbourhood and the perfect person to run my city has been giving me sleepless nights (well, almost) as I tossed and turned, having mental round table discussions about the country’s various political parties and their politicians.
I was born during “the struggle”, but I didn’t actually experience it like my parents did. I’ve read books about Apartheid and the oppression “my people” endured at the hands of the white extremists. I’ve subsequently read about our liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC), and how the elders fought – literally – for the freedoms I indulge in on a daily basis.
So, naturally I should give my “x” to the ANC out of sentiment, loyalty and most of all, gratitude. Right?
While I acknowledge the struggles of my elders when I was still in nappies and completely oblivious of their actions, I have not seen with my own big, brown eyes how the masses were rioting during Apartheid. I did not see for myself how families were separated during the forced removals. I did not witness the struggle heroes being killed and tortured when they took a stand against their oppressors. And I did not see Nelson Mandela taking that long walk to freedom.
So what is it that lay before my eyes? 17 years into our hard fought for democracy and unemployment is skyrocketing like there’s no tomorrow and poverty is rifer than rain. Murder, rape and child abuse have almost become the norm, so much so that, sadly, I’m nearly desensitised to those atrocious crimes. Thousands upon thousands are wallowing in inhumane conditions in informal settlements without electricity and running water. Babies are dying because there aren’t adequate and efficient public health facilities to serve the poor. Cabinet ministers are constantly being accused of corruption and misappropriation of public funds that are meant to serve us. People are waiting in vain for houses, with their names being on a mystery waiting list for decades.
I don’t expect a perfect world overnight, but I do expect the powers that be to prevent the abovementioned negatives from worsening.
In a country where so many social ills exist today and where service delivery is nearly non-existent, having fought for my freedom is just not enough to get my vote. Mind you, there is no political party worthy of my vote. Even though the country is ruled by the ANC, there are other political parties who play a role in decision-making in local and national government.
This does not mean I should refrain from practicing my constitutional right to cast my ballot as I don’t want to be accused of stealing a public holiday. I decided to vote for the people who I think can make a difference, not for the party and what they have done (or not done) in the past. I’m voting for the people who I think can be held accountable, who will acknowledge their shortcomings, interact with the public and work to towards a better South Africa by engaging with its people.
The run-up to Wednesday made me realise there is a need for a new, refreshing party. Yes, I know the market is flooded already but hear me out. A party with a fair representation of all the races whose leaders are known community workers with good reputations and with no negative connotations attached to it, is one I would vote for. A party who can make a difference slowly but surely and very noticeably. It’s not impossible but realistically very unlikely. But for now we have to deal with what’s already in front of us.
So, fellow young ones, makes this vote count for you. Vote with your head, not your heart.
This article originally appeared here.