2021 LOCAL ELECTIONS
Local government elections left me feeling left out
I was rather unenthused, but voted nonetheless, if only from a position of dilution of power. My conscience wouldn’t allow me to do otherwise.
Local government elections seem to be regarded as the country bumpkin cousin of the more glamorous city slicker national government. Yet, local government is where the tangible results or lack thereof of political parties manifest most clearly.
Most of us see mayoral and municipal candidates for the first time on election posters and the local government ballot paper, but we see the national leadership candidates almost daily — pontificating, chests bursting with self-important rhetoric. What does this tell us?
What voting patterns have shown is that the majority of the electorate votes for how political parties speak to their immediate basic needs and however said party chooses to razzle-dazzle it up. This could be by trotting out promises of jobs, land, water and electricity. Or harking back to the “good old days” when there was no load shedding or unemployed people roaming around because of Bantustans and the dompas. Or the newer and fresher ideology of xenophobia that has at its heart scapegoating and a scrambling for institutionally sanctioned scarce resources.
The motivation of political parties nowadays seems to be more about staying alive than using their time while alive to actually perform their duties, which, it seems they need reminding, are service delivery and upholding the Constitution, not creating strategic alliances that will allow “power sharing” so people stay in office while not earning their keep.
After all, what is that power sharing for, if not to ensure that you are in a position to fulfil the ticket and mandate on which you, and not your neighbour down the road, were elected?
You’ll often hear political party members say that branches do all the heavy lifting and hold all the power, so it might be useful to look at local government as branches of the political party of your choice. Using that as a departure, it then becomes important to ensure that your branches are working and functional from a governance, transparency and outcomes position and, if not, what does the consequence management plan look like; do you even know your branch chairperson?
What seems to have been a successful disarming tactic on the part of political parties is the creation of problems that people feel are beyond them to mobilise around and tackle, spurred mainly by playing on the vulnerabilities that people experience as a result of poverty and fear.
So, for example, the ANC (read President Cyril Ramaphosa) telling people, “If you don’t vote ANC, electricity may never be restored”, is not only irresponsible, but a tactic of debilitation. Because load shedding can be resolved, not only by the ANC government but by any other political party which was to assume power and come up with a proper plan that doesn’t have corruption as a proviso.
This would be so that they can ensure that we have enough power stations to serve the country’s needs, that once the power stations are built they are capacitated so they can actually function and of course that these power stations are regularly maintained. It’s not unicorns we are in search of, it’s real quantifiable things that can be achieved if corruption, mismanagement and the maintenance of positions of power stop being a central part of the government’s functionality.
Reflecting specifically on my choice of candidate and whether any of the political parties moved me, I was left rather unenthused, but voted nonetheless, if only from a position of dilution of power. My conscience wouldn’t allow me to do otherwise.
It still left me feeling hollow and unseen by any of the political parties, whose election campaign trail literally did not speak to me; not one person canvassed my vote, whether in an unsolicited SMS or call, knock on my door or the promises made by their out-of-touch posters.
I also hate load shedding, but the ruling party didn’t think it was necessary to engage me and promise that my vote for them would bring it to an end. I wonder why… DM/MC