I don’t wanna vote because I know that the ANC will win anyway.
– Multiple #LiveVIPZA Interviewees
We’ve all heard that one.
You can’t lose an election, friend. Democracy, you see, isn’t football and your vote isn’t a goal that earns the party you vote for a medal, trophy and the universal right to gloat for days and days and days.
Yup. Allow me to clarify. In 1994 and other elections since, the use of the word win when referring to election results has no doubt enforced the idea that a win for any party translates to an outright loss for the rest. It seems many believe that by virtue of not winning, the other parties are knocked out of contention entirely, KO’d into a ball of obscurity like a black-eyed boxer sprawling on the ground with nothing more to contribute while all rights go to the chest-thumping winning party. Though it’s likely that Jacob Zuma will continue as president after this election; in the political context, I assure you, the word win is purely semantic. If one party wins an election, does this mean that other parties have lost it? Uhm, no. So what then, does the “winning” party gain? They gain influence. The number of votes a party gains translates directly to their degree of influence.
Before we proceed further, allow me to bust a couple of myths for you.
1. You effectively don’t vote for a president, you vote for the party that best represents YOUR individual interests. No-one else’s. Not those of your entire race, nor those of Malome Oupa at your local spaza shop’s. You vote squarely for your own interests – as an individual – and for a party that best understands these interests. Once you have done this, you’ve earned yourself a proxy in government and so can be confident that the views and interests of people like yourself will be adequately considered and debated upon when laws are passed and policies are drafted in parliament. Regardless of who the president is. The president of a nation comes from the party that gained the largest number of votes in the election – the majority party.
2. Also, the party is NOT the government. It’s important to separate the majority party in any election from the government it forms. Why? Because though the majority party’s ideas and leaders direct the government’s 5-year course, the government serves the people. All of the people. This is why once elected, the president becomes the leader of the ENTIRE country and not JUST the people that voted for him/her. Comprende? Parliament, thus, is a confluence of people and ideas that are representative of the views and realities of EVERYONE in the country. Not just those that voted for the majority/ruling party. Majority doesn’t always win. Not always. You vote for influence in government. Even if your party wins a single seat, the entire government STILL works for you buddy, and because of this single seat, your viewpoint can & will be expressed when that government makes decisions and drafts laws & policy.
A group of friends plan a massive dinner party for 9. A complex feast is planned complete with pecan nut pie for dessert when halfway through the preparation, Sello, the chef (president and government) is reminded (viewpoint expressed) that ONE of the dinner attendants, Thapelo (minority party) is allergic to peanuts. Disaster? No. A decision is made to drop the pecan nut pie for cheese cake instead because though the single dinner attendant ISN’T the majority, the chef (president/government) needs to cater for everyone’s needs at the table and so it is judged that they shouldn’t kill Thapelo in the prime of his youth. If any of the other attendants or Sello can prove (debate) that Thapelo isn’t in fact allergic to nuts and/or that he will prepare the pie in a way that won’t threaten Thapelo’s life, then a provision has thus been made for him. The same applies in government. If Sello turns out to be a hard ass & prepares the pecan nut pie even when it threatens Thapelo’s life, it’s unlikely any of the friends will want to go to Sello’s house for dinner again. The same principle should apply to a president.
So, ultimately, this election won’t be won by any political party ABSOLUTELY. The “winning” party doesn’t win the right to do whatever the hell they want, they win the ability to become the chief informants of the direction the country goes in terms of the policy frameworks relating to the economy, domestic policy and foreign policy (cheese cake vs. pecan nut pie). That’s all. So when you vote tomorrow, don’t vote in the hopes of making Helen Zille, Jacob Zuma or Julius Malema president, vote for the people that represent your views and ideas of what South Africa should be like, best.
Because you can’t lose an election, friend.
Follow me on Twitter: @LeeMolefi
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