So, voting day has come and gone, and the results are in. Consequently, there seems to be a great deal of gnashing of teeth and general despair amongst those who did not vote for the ruling party. This surprises me about as much as the results do.
I was too young to vote in the first democratic elections, and as the person I am now, I probably would have voted for Madiba, but I will be the first to admit that I have always voted for the DA in every subsequent election. So, am I disappointed with the 2014 election results? Certainly, I would have liked to see the ANC get the rude awakening they so richly deserve by scoring less than 60% of the vote (that didn’t happen) and I would have loved to see the DA take Gauteng (that didn’t happen either), but I’m not sure it is possible to be disappointed by something so entirely unsurprising.
The majority voting for the ANC despite a clear failure on the part of the ruling party to address service delivery issues and overwhelming corruption is not, as so many would have us believe, a matter of stupidity. It’s about loyalty. And maybe that loyalty has become blind in some respects, but it is nonetheless completely understandable. It is so easy to sit in our white middle class homes and say that people should vote for change, but we are on the outside of their experiences. It’s implausible to expect people who were subjected to apartheid to turn their backs on the people who freed them from that system. When you ask what the ANC has ever done for its supporters, remember that. It’s a big one. Time has passed, certainly, but twenty years is nothing in the face of that memory, and it will take more time for trust to develop and for voting along racial lines to dissipate – on all sides. We can already see it happening – a massive growth in support for the DA and a significant decline in ANC support in this election tell that story. I do believe that in time people will vote along policy lines rather than out of fear or loyalty, but we’re not there yet. And what of the ‘Born Frees’, who were eligible to vote for the first time this year? They didn’t experience apartheid, certainly, but their parents did. And how many of us at 18 or 19 were savvy enough or bold enough to betray something so dear to our elders? Moreover, many of the younger generation didn’t bother to vote at all, which is a whole separate issue, touching not only on disillusionment with the ruling party, but also the apathy of youth and a belief that voting should be done electronically.
So I suppose the only thing that actually disappoints me is that unless current leadership takes note of their slowly dwindling support (which peaked in 2004 at 69.69% and has declined in the last two elections, now sitting at 62.15%), and makes a concerted effort to improve service delivery and address corruption, the poor will continue to suffer. Not the middle class, who sit and wring their hands over the outcome – although we may have to consider paying our e-toll bills since the DA or EFF won’t be saving us from that one – but the people who need change the most. Here’s to 2019.