Love your South Africa

It’s less than 2 days before polls open for the 2011 Local Government Elections… and I’m yet to hear of anyone being tortured or killed. The opposition has rallies and no rubber bullets or tear gas are used to disburse the gathered supporters. People aren’t forced to keep their vote a secret on fear of death, instead they openly discuss who they are going to vote for and why. After many years in South Africa, I still find this weird.

Rather, kids are attending school as per normal and people are peacefully at work, acting as though they’re not about to exercise their most powerful right as South African citizens. In fact, in South Africa, potential voters are frequently reminded that voting is both a right and an obligation. I find the fact that people have to be persuaded to vote very strange… why would you not vote when you have the opportunity to do so in free and fair elections? I guess the problem is that many South Africans don’t realise how lucky they are. It’s also insulting to those of us who have never seen free and fair elections in our countries.

All in all, it’s been a rather boring election run-up. Don’t get me wrong, this is obviously a good thing, but it’s still quite boring. The only entertainment we’ve had are reminders that those who vote for the ANC will go to heaven and bad election posters. I mean, if your face is going to be on every lamp post in the vicinity, why didn’t you at least choose a good picture of yourself? I tell you, some of them are just naaasty. It’s self-sabotage, pure and simple. They clearly want people to not vote for them.

Oh wait, and then there’s also COPE’s participation in the elections, which I just find hilarious. Their posters have “Reliable. Accountable. Incorruptible” pasted across them, together with Lekota’s beaming face. Are they for real? I can’t help wondering whether maybe they’re maybe talking about another COPE, a COPE whose leaders didn’t bicker and squabble over power until they’d all lost every ounce of credibility, a COPE that didn’t have to go to the High Court to tell them who was actually the president of their own party… you know, basically a COPE that was serious about life.

Of course, there has also been all the fighting about toilets, so much so that the elections are being commonly referred to as “the toilet elections”. First, the DA was in crap for failing to enclose toilets they had built in Makhaza informal settlement in the Western Cape. The ANC then called the DA a racist political party, blah, blah, blah, which made things more awkward. The DA has now been slapped with a court order ordering them to enclose the toilets. Damn right, I thought.

Then came the revelation that the ANC has failed to enclose toilets they built in Moqhaka Local Municipality in the Free State. That left deep embarrassment on the ANC’s collective face. The ANC had entered into the same agreement with local residents as the DA had in Cape Town – there was an understanding that if they provided the sanitation, the residents would provide the enclosures. Apparently such agreements are illegal and contrary to the Constitution, but I honestly think both the DA and the ANC were just trying to do their best on limited budgets and they placed too much trust in the residents delivering on their side of the deal. It back-fired on both of them.

I must just say, as an aside, that I’ve been really impressed with the ANC’s reaction to the discovery of unenclosed ANC toilets. They didn’t fight it or try to wrangle their way out of it, they took responsibility and said, “Whatever the circumstance, it’s unacceptable… We cannot allow our people to be disrespected like that. It’s even worse if that’s being done by an ANC municipality”. Those are pretty deep sentiments. Since the discovery of the unenclosed toilets, they’ve enclosed hundreds and have said that they will enclose hundreds more in the coming weeks. Well done.

The squabbling about toilets has shown that the political parties concerned realise exactly what these elections are about: basic service delivery. Which is what local government elections should be about. As they say, you get the leaders you deserve, and if you don’t vote, I guess you get the leaders that other people deserve… and you definitely lose your right to complain about lack of service delivery. So, please, go out and make your mark on Wednesday. Vote for who you think is going to provide the best basic service delivery. Love your South Africa.

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