Just a few hours before last week’s local government elections, I received an inbox message from what seemed like an African National Congress loyalist urging about 171 of his Facebook friends to use our “democratic right” to “vote for the ANC”. The loyalist went even further, bizzarely nogal, to claim that the South African Media had portrayed the election as if it was all about service delivery when, in fact, we should be fighting for “economic freedom”. Really?
The loyalist, who I would prefer he remains anonymous, admitted however that despite what the ruling party had already done since it took power over 17 years ago, “we still need to do more” and but did not miss his “vote ANC” message.
Responding to this Facebook friend at the time, I had this to say:
You have urged us to exercise our “democratic right” to vote in tomorrow’s local elections. Thank you. But having said that, this “democratic right” is an individual thing to “exercise” and by this I mean it is up to us whether we want to vote or not. You should not be seen as dictating to us when, where, how, why and how to vote. NEVER!
You further say we should “vote for the ANC”. Now here I think that’s where you are wrong. Your favouring the ANC should not have anything to do with our voting and you MUST NEVER, at any stage before or after the election date, be seen as trying to impose your favourite party to few of us your “friends” on Facebook and or elsewhere. You have crossed the line. You should let us be.
This “vote for ANC” is against the very democratic right you expect of us to exercise. In other words, your “vote for ANC” is contrary to democracy for it seems to impose on us what or which political party we should vote for. By the way, who said some of us would want to vote? By us not wanting to vote could be attributed to us not having seen a political party that we’d prefer to lead us from where we now are to where we want to be in the next couple of years.
As a member of the ANC you should have been aware that as much as you have signed yourself to defending your party – that is by no means that you should be seen as forcing us into voting for the same party. And it is no wonder you have the likes of your other “Facebook friends” feeling like you are infringing on their “right (not) to vote”. As much as it is a constitutional right to do so, it is also not mandatory or prerequisite for all South Africans to go and vote failing which they would be deprived certain services. Of course many of us agree with you that a lot has been done when you say “much has been done despite the fact we still need to do more”.
You further claim that the “media has potrayed (sic) this elections as if they are all about service delivery” when we actually “still need to fight economic freedom”.
Well my friend, I think you have got it wrong. And yes there are instances where the media coverage has influenced the political voters’ choice of which party to support tomorrow. But where the media has been extensively covering the ANC (City Press on Sunday and SABC reportedly this week) we have not seen you or your party saying its coverage is unfair as the SABC’s, especially, because it should not be seen as favouring it as it has now been alleged. By the way, of course we can make up our own mind whether we believe what the media is saying about the ANC or not. Or you think we can’t?
I further find your claim that the media has portrayed tomorrow’s election “as if they are all about service delivery” very worrying. It is worrying because, in case you have been underground, the main reason why people vote is because they want “service delivery”, nothing more, nothing less. How can you say that? How on this earth and in this 21st century do you expect people to exercise their “economic freedom” if there has not been any “service delivery” of resources and equipments that would enable them to do so?
For people to exercise their “economic freedom”, they first need “service delivery”, Broer! I recommend that you read this document attached. It is titled “When Ignorance isn’t bliss: How Political ignorance threatens Democracy” by Ilya Somin which appeared in Policy Analysis Journal No. 525 of September 22, in 2004. It is as relevant today as it was when it was written for the Americans then.
My loyalist friend hit back at me saying “it is only in the mind of the those (sic) who are blind to the truth to believe that reminding and encouraging friends to vote and vote for ANC is a dictatorship. It is even worse to highlight government failures without highlighting its success. In anyway South Africans will prove prophets of doom wrong tomorrow. I am quite inspired by your hat rage of ANC, truth is even dogs will vote for the ANC. I believe in criticism but I don’t believe in ignorance.”
Does his believing in criticism and not ignorance mean that my comments were that ignorant? Isn’t he the one being ignorant here? Or maybe I am being ignorant?
And not being the ignorant freak I am portrayed to be I then told my loyalist that I was not “raged at the ANC at all” and that I am not as “ignorant” as he assumed of me but that I was just taken aback by his somewhat imposition of his own political views or preference on us.
I went even further to quote from a piece I advised him to read that: “voter ignorance provides an unanticipated argument in favor of decentralized federalism. Decentralization allows citizens to ‘vote with their feet’ by moving out of jurisdictions with policies they dislike and into those that have more favorable ones. Because each person can decide for herself whether or not she will move, there is a much greater incentive to acquire relevant information with ‘foot voting’ than with traditional ballot-box voting.”
And I did not want to be that ignorant voter, did I?