Why South Africans need to learn to vote for leaders and not ideas
Blog by Trinisha Vandeyar
This could be one of a hundred pieces blaming and shaming the ANC, talking about the failings of President Jacob Zuma or the fact that the EFF now poses a legitimate threat to the powers that be. It’s not however. This is about why we, as South Africans, at some level have lost the understanding of why voting for an ideology, political or otherwise, doesn’t change or evolve our democracy into a living, breathing reality.
Before 1994, the belief in the idea of freedom and equality was what drove our struggle. When the first democratic election came, it wasn’t just the idea of freedom any longer. Through the very act of casting a vote, millions of South Africans had their first taste of freedom after a long, dark and bloody road. It didn’t end there because we had a leader in Nelson Mandela. We had someone who understood that the principles the ANC stood for were more than just ideas. They were possibilities and truths that could become realities for our country.
It’s now over 20 years later and we are the furthest we’ve ever been from the feelings of hope and unity that once were. The funny thing about South African politics is that everyone is really good at pointing out what the ANC hasn’t done and how, should they be given power, will change that. The sad reality is that so many of us are taken in by the negative aspects of political engagement, like the drama that has now become parliament that we’ve forgotten to ask what it is about anymore. Oh how distracted we have become!
Transformation and economic freedom. Two jobs that one government with a multitude of resources is responsible for. Why, when we all know how much healing we need, do we care more about who is getting kicked out of parliament this year than we care about standing together and calling for real action? Why aren’t we willing to be accountable by choosing to hold the government accountable? When the people who have been given custodianship over the souls of millions of people fail to understand that it is not about who they are but what they do, we have lost. When the people who have given custodianship to people who continuously abuse this privilege and do nothing about it, we have failed.
Perhaps the real lesson is understanding that talking about democracy doesn’t make the world free. Outing the President for Nkandla won’t change the fact that he did it. Creating more policy, making more red tape, and thinking about more reasons why it’s not possible than it is possible won’t feed hungry stomachs, house the homeless or empower the disempowered. Why then as a South African would you give your vote to someone who tells you about the things they’re going to do instead of shows you the things they’ve done?
Maybe it’s time that we remember the difference between a politician and a leader, and maybe it’s time that we started looking for leaders who don’t just have a philosophy on their websites and T-shirts but leaders who are actually living what they believe through what they do. Maybe it’s time that we started asking for evidence.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Kaya FM.