South Africa


Poll pause — a man walks into a queue… and starts having second thoughts

Poll pause — a man walks into a queue… and starts having second thoughts
Image: Midjourney AI

Waiting in line to vote this week meant a long time agonising over what-if and if-only and no-not-that.

The trouble with standing in a queue – any queue – for any length of time is the space it gives one for second thoughts. Standing in the queue at Woolworths, there’s too much time to gaze into your basket and think about whether you’re getting what you should be getting.

Those crunchie biscuits with the yoghurt icing, isn’t that a bit of an indulgence? Those few biscuits (two biscuits fewer per packet, now, than a few months ago) aren’t very good for one, they cost rather a lot and heaven knows a Woolworths basket, not even a full basket, is at least R400. To save R60 or so by leaving out the biscuits?

This is why Woolworths asks you to call a special number if you’ve been standing in the queue for too long. It wants to reduce your time for second thoughts, for re-evaluations.

Should I call the number? Where is it?

Shit, I came at rush hour and of course the queue is long and of course all the tellers are on duty, and busy, squeaking those barcodes as fast as they can, so how would they speed it up, anyway?

Actually, I then think, I’m in the queue now and I’m not leaving it to put the biscuits back.

Well, says another part of one’s mind, you could just dump them here amid the hand sanitisers. People do that all the time.

Last week I saw that someone had changed their mind about the frozen meal they’d picked up, so they left it alongside some last-minute pot plant choices, where it sat, thawing slowly.

No, good citizens don’t do that. So you wait in the queue. And you buy the biscuits. And then you regret it later.

Going to vote this week, and standing in a very long queue (damn, why oh why didn’t I come at 7am?), I had similar thoughts. Second thoughts, or third thoughts.

So if I vote for Rise Mzansi for national, isn’t that throwing away a vote? It isn’t likely to get more than a seat or two, surely? Which means that if I vote for Rise Mzansi nationally, it’s essentially a vote for the ruling party. Or is it? Is it a vote for the official opposition? Maybe it’s a vote for a coalition. I’m sure there was a Daily Maverick article explaining the numbers and the odds and all that, but I really can’t remember.

Anyway, it’s a vote for a principle – a vote for a party that has some freshness about it, that lacks the musty smell of old policies, outdated ideologies and promises that remain unfulfilled. Songezo Zibi is a sensible guy. He’s got a calm, rational manner. And Rize Mzansi actually has a slogan one can get behind: South Africa needs new leaders! Couldn’t agree more.

But is a vote for it really a vote for the ruling party? Aaarrrgh…

At least I knew that provincially I’d vote for the DA because it is most likely to get enough votes to oust the ANC. That’s if it can work out a deal with its potential coalition partners.

But who exactly are its coalition partners at provincial level? Are they all above board? I certainly don’t want a coalition that includes one of those lame-brained single-seat parties that then gets positions in the mayoral council just because it’s in coalition with the DA.

But how else to vote? It would be so great to get the ANC out, to be able to say goodbye to Panyaza Lesufi as the premier of Gauteng and the arch-manipulator of the City of Joburg’s ridiculous coalition government that fails to govern. He should stay out of the city’s government issues, but then what would he do at provincial level? What does anyone do at provincial level? This is unclear to me.

What I do know is that the provision of housing for the unhoused is a provincial competence, if you can call it competence. That’s what the populist we’re-doing-this-for-the people Lesufi should’ve been asked, and asked again, while he was campaigning: how many houses did you build?

The Great Panyaza appointed a few thousand (did someone say 12,000?) kitskonstabels (instant constables) to pretend to help police the city, but that was really done for the sake of a few thousand more ANC votes, was it not? Could those kitskonstabel votes swing things for Panyaza? No, no, too ghastly to contemplate.

Okay, back to the DA. Try to keep out of your mind the image of John Steenhuisen’s face, with its look of mild constipation, bravely borne. Yes, yes, he’s not provincial, and I’m sure the party has a perfectly acceptable provincial candidate, but still…

And what about that regional ballot? Can’t vote for an independent like Zackie Achmat because even though he’s going for a national position, that is, a seat in Parliament, you can only vote for him if you’re resident in the Western Cape.

How the hell does that law work? It seems as confused and confusing as the recently tabled bill that will undo all the good done by the Political Party Funding Act and allow the President to set the cap on how much a party can get from its donors.

You can almost see Cyril thinking it through, his special National Health Insurance pen poised above the relevant document: er, the ANC needs another R30-million to buy T-shirts and order more posters from China, so let’s make it, er, R40-million?

I think that’s what’s called a conflict of interest. If the whole goddamn system of government isn’t really a kind of conflict-of-interest scenario. Well, there’s no law the ANC can’t undo by making another law. And fuck you too, Mary Slack!

At any rate, Zackie wasn’t on my regional ballot here in Gauteng. So I had to see who was on that ballot for Gauteng (or is it national?) and made a last-second decision. When I could read that tiny print and work out who’s in the picture.

Ooh! Exciting! A nearly spontaneous decision. No time to second-guess that one. DM

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.


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