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South Africans, are we really free to vote for who we want?

Zygmunt Bauman, polish sociologists, says it best:

“There are two crucial values without which human life is simple [sic.] inconceivable. One is security, a measure of security, feeling safe. The other is freedom, ability to self-assert, to do what you really would like to do and so on. They are both necessary. Security without freedom is slavery. Freedom without security is complete chaos where you are lost, abandoned, you don’t know what to do.”

There are more complex ways of going into this, but for the everyday human on earth, freedom and security are things they cannot live without. But what does this have to do with South Africa and the elections coming up in August? This article is going to be an attempt to show how in South Africa we are, in a subtle way, restricted from voting freely; we have choices, but in the context of the recent past (i.e. apartheid) we are hugely restricted, consciously or otherwise. In a way, we are “pushed” toward a party with no other choice.

South Africa and apartheid go hand in hand for some people, but in the recent news, multiple political parties have tried to neutralise this political force, saying: “we cannot blame apartheid anymore.” You would think after 20 years of relative freedom the apartheid slogan would have fallen quicker, but it remains a huge influencing factor in modern South African voting patterns.

In South Africa, there are three major parties (and over 50 other lesser known parties): the ANC, the DA and the EFF. All of the previous mentioned have their problems, this article is not about criticising any party, or supporting any party in particular. This article is about trying to show how some people fell into a mentality of voting for a certain party and are ‘stuck’ inside of that mentality (even if the services they provide are not good enough for continued support).

The current president of South Africa has called the DA (Democratic Alliance) party “spawn of the National Party” (The NP was responsible for the apartheid regime), but is that statement even a valid statement to make in South Africa in this day and age? The people at the rally or speech will form an association of the DA party and the NP (an overwhelmingly negative connotation). They may now not vote for the DA almost purely because the president said the DA is the next NP. The choice of voting for the ANC is thus not based on sane reasoning on policy, but on political rhetoric and an arguably baseless association. The option to vote for who you want to is not free, it is not a conscious, autonomous decision.

If you look at the other side of the coin, the same problem arises. People voting for the DA are “brainwashed” with the speeches about how bad the ANC has been, and all the negative aspects about the current president. Political rhetoric and some “good deeds” before the election in poverty stricken areas help get them votes, these votes do not necessarily reflect real analysis of the idea that they would be a good governing party.  Many people claim that the majority of the DA voters are voting for them because there is no other option.

The question I want to ask is: Are we really free to vote for who we like? With only three major parties, the options are limited if you want your vote to be heard. With negative connotations hanging in the air, and political parties who gain votes by hate speech, are people making the vote they should? I cannot claim that South Africa is different from the rest of the world; the choice between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton is in many ways the same. What I am trying to stay is that the label of “freedom to vote for who you like” is maybe not as free as you might expect.

 


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