Strategic Voting in the elections

As South Africans we are almost always complaining about the state of the nation. What we often don’t do is talk about the ways in which we can solve some of our problems, or at least move towards a direction of solving them. The local elections are upon us, and I propose that the whole country Votes Strategically. I propose that we don’t vote for whom we like, or who has historically been linked to us through our race, but to vote in ways that will unsettle the way power is organised currently.

Most of us are dissatisfied with how the ANC led government has ruled the nation, we are also dissatisfied with the way the DA led provincial government in the Western Cape has been operating. We have evidence everywhere of the ways the ANC led government has crippled the economy, is riddled with corruption, how it has run the Eastern Cape to the ground, etc. Although different, but we are also very aware of the shortcomings of the DA led government in the Western Cape. The city of Cape Town has been accused of being a hotbed of racism, and the leadership in the DA has been in denial about this for a long time. Although recently, they have created an anti-racism campaign, a well-intentioned campaign that is problematic as it does not address systematic racism but talks about it only from an individual level. The DA has also made some seriously dubious decisions about public land in the city of Cape Town. Recently the city shoes to sell public land to private individuals without consulting the public, and as pointed out by Reclaim The City the land could be used for public good or low cost housing.

Clearly having one dominant party with too much power is a problem. Political parties need to be kept in check by having a strong opposition. The DA has mostly been the strongest opposition to the ANC, and having this opposition has been good for certain parts of the country. Now we also have the EFF positioned to be a strong opposition nationally and provincially in certain parts of the country. This is good for our democracy to have different parties and different voices representing the people of South Africa. The diversification of parties in parliament and the people who represent us is good for debate but also having real power that can be exercised when people are not doing their jobs.

Now with Strategic Voting, we as South Africans should vote according to what will create healthy oppositions in political parties in all of the provinces. We should vote to unsettle political parties that have too much power in the provinces and by extension nationally. We should avoid voting for parties we belong to. We should avoid voting for parties we like and love. We should avoid voting for parties because we are racially aligned to them. We should avoid voting for parties that we are emotionally attached to. We should vote strategically for the good of the ward, the good of the province, and the good of the nation. We should Strategically Vote for what will be best for the people of South Africa as a whole. It shouldn’t be a given that the ANC will win local and national elections. It shouldn’t be a given that the DA will win elections in the Western Cape either. Although I think it is good that the DA is leading the Western Cape province, the DA still needs to be challenged by other parties so that it doesn’t rest thinking it doesn’t have to work for the people, all the people. Political parties need to know that ONLY when they work for the people will they stay in power.

With Strategic Voting I am suggesting that we vote for parties that will disturb the power of the dominant parties. For example, in the Eastern Cape, the ANC has had a very strong hold since the 1994 elections. The ANC led government has run to the ground the public health and the public school sector in the Eastern Cape. There are still mud schools and some public hospitals can’t even feed their patience. The poor management of the Eastern Cape’s public resources adversely affect poor people and we know poor people in the Eastern Cape are black people. The ANC has lost major support in the Nelson Mandela Bay, what used to be Port Elizabeth. The DA has gained support and is positioned to take the Nelson Mandela Bay. This is necessary for healthy oppositional political party politics. With the upcoming 3 August 2016 elections, it should be the Voting Strategy of everyone in the Eastern Cape to Vote for any party but the ANC. People in the eastern should vote for the UDM, the EFF, or the DA. And the real completion for the province should be between these non-yet-in-power parties.

Voting Strategically enables us to give a new party a chance to show us what they can do with the power they receive. For example, if the EFF ruled the Limpopo Province and the UDM ruled the Eastern Cape, we as a nation would be able to see if these parties are capable of running a province. Also Voting Strategically will also ensure that the same political party does not control the whole of South Africa. In this way power is spread in the provinces, and political parties understand that their positions in power are not guaranteed. Political parties need to understand through the power of the vote that an opposition can replace them. Maybe then they will be more likely to provide services to the people.

Strategic Voting is helpful for us in South Africa because we often are caught between the two horrible political parties. When elections come around, the biggest conundrum for us as South Africans is WHO DO YOU VOTE FOR in this fraught and corrupt political climate? South Africans often have to choose between the lesser of two evils when it comes to political parties. This is where a Strategic Voting systems becomes important because as citizens can vote to ensure that the power is not with political parties in parliament but with the people who Strategically Vote for the political parties in parliament.

Voting Strategically means that we will forever be changing our voting habits because our alliance does not start and end with a particular political party, but with the well being of the citizens of the country. Of course this is not a 100% full proof system, but it is a strategy that can be used to unsettle the power of the dominant party. Also, in unsettling the power of the dominant party, we need to be aware of replacing one dominant party with another. Voting Strategically is important if we are to change the results of the national elections in 2019. We as citizens need to work together to create a political landscape that is beneficial for all of us. With our votes we need to strategically create a future South Africa with political parties that are answerable to the people. This is possible, but we need to be strategic about how we vote.

So for the upcoming local elections, if you are unsatisfied with the local government, or you think the local government needs a shake up, look for the opposition in your area. You don’t have to like the opposition, but you can Strategically Vote for the opposition in your area. Of course, this is not done blindly, you still need to assess the worth of the opposition, but the voting is not about being emotionally attached to a party or a candidate, but what will be good for the country. Vote for what will unsettle the power of the dominant party. We need to be more involved as citizens in the running of our country. We need to be more assertive about what we want and what we will not tolerate as citizens. Democracy is not a spectator sport; we all need to do our bit for team South Africa. On the 3 August 2016, go out there and Vote Strategically.


Township life and black psychological impairment

Going back to where I grew up is always an interesting experience because I run into my younger self in weird ways and I am confronted with the many ways I have changed since I left Port Elizabeth. I am confronted by the life I knew I never wanted hence I escaped to Cape Town. This past week I visited my mother who still lives in KwaZakhele, Port Elizabeth, where I spent the first twenty years of my life. I often visit at least once a year. It was depressing to visit the area I once called home, I suppose in some ways it is still home. Although, now I call Cape Town home – politics of a black person from the “Eastern Cape” calling Cape Town home notwithstanding. When I arrived in KwaZakhele from the airport I was welcomed by a smell of disappointment and total neglect. Instead of the area improving in post-apartheid times, it is depreciating. When entering KwaZakhele, from whichever direction you are welcomed by rubbish everywhere. Old decaying buildings close to people’s homes have turned into dumping grounds. People are living amongst rubbish and life just goes on. My mother told me that she takes her own rubbish to a waste-disposing site about 10 kilometres from where she lives because waste pickup in so erratic and inconvenient.

When I arrived, about 5 houses from where I grew up, the floodlight that provides light for a massive area at night was lying on the ground. My mother informed me that the light was taken down around March/April 2014 to be fixed and it’s been lying on the ground ever since. The area gets really dark at night and people don’t feel safe, not to mention that some people still use the outside lavatories at night and so it’s difficult for people who don’t have well lit back yards. Some homes are so poor in this area that having a light bulb outside is a luxury. Rumour has it that when the people asked the ward councillor about why the light was taking so long to fix, he keeps on giving people nonsense excuses about parts of the light coming from overseas, but the best one was that there’s only one person who can fix the light and he was currently in Cape Town on another project.

The minute I arrived home it was one horror story after another about crime in the area. It’s so unsettling to realize that your family members are living in such a dangerous place particularly because I live in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Cape Town – which of course does come with it’s own set of issues. Most of what I saw and experienced in KwaZakhele this past week I have read about and I have seen it in townships in Cape Town, but what really struck me about KwaZakhele was the continued downward spiral of the area and people’s lives. Since I have left KwaZakhele, every time I go back it seems to be more depressing than the last time I visited. The area feels like people have just given up on life. It looks and feels like young people have no dreams about their futures. Many of the people I went to school with are unemployed and wake up to stand on street corners and ask for spare change from a passer-by who looks like they might have a coin to spare.

Like many townships around the country, KwaZakhele is a product of the Group Areas Act. KwaZakhele is an area created during apartheid to house black people in Port Elizabeth. There are many other township areas around South Africa that are just like KwaZakhele. So, in a sense there’s nothing unique about KwaZakhele. Like many townships KwaZakhele has 4-roomed matchbox houses that were built by the apartheid government in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The area was even nicknamed “4rooms” after the houses that were built in the area. Some families added more rooms to their houses using either bricks and cement or corrugated iron, or plywood amongst other materials. What is troubling is that these matchbox style types of township houses and areas are still under production by the ANC government. New houses and areas have been created to house black people and often these new areas are in the outskirts of cities, which is really the continuation of apartheid geography where black people live far away from white suburbs and the city centres.

My trip to KwaZakhele left me asking myself, why are people not more upset about the state of things where they live? Why are people not doing more to improve their lives in townships? Why are people not putting more pressure on their ward councillors for better services? Why aren’t people shaming their ward councillors on local newspapers? Why aren’t people taking care of the areas they live in? Why aren’t people requiring better infrastructures in the new areas where they live? I am sure there are a number of possible answers to these questions, and I won’t try to tackle all of them.

Although there are many service delivery protests around the country, I think one of the major problems in KwaZakhele and possibly other townships is that people don’t really believe they deserve better. This is captured succinctly by the popular phrase in Xhosa “ubungenayo nale indlu” (you didn’t even have that house) that often shocks me when I ask people about rejecting poorly build government houses. People often say that you can’t reject what you have been given by the government because you didn’t even have it in the first place. So people accept whatever they get. I find this troubling because it speaks to a deep-seated inferiority complex.

Although there are a number of processes in place in post-apartheid South Africa aimed at redress like affirmative action and land redistribution, although both imperfect they are mechanisms to redress South Africa’s gross inequality. What has been neglected in post-apartheid South Africa in the quest to redress the past is the psychological effects of colonisation and apartheid on black South Africans. I think as a country we underestimate the psychological violence that has been visited on black minds by the past regimes, a violence that continues in varied ways in post-apartheid South Africa. A more cynical view would say that white capital and the black government understand the psychological impairment caused by colonialism and apartheid of black South Africans and use it to retain power and control of the masses. What I witnessed in KwaZakhele this past week cemented to me that black people in KwaZakhele, quite possibly in many townships around the country, don’t believe they deserve better than the lives they are living. People have bought into the inferiority they have been fed by colonialism and later apartheid and the current black government doesn’t seem interested in reconstructing the psychological health of black South Africans.

The psychological effects of colonialism and apartheid does not just affect poor black people who live in townships, it affects middle class black people in white suburbs, who navigate their new surroundings as if they don’t belong there. It affects our government officials who seem to be blind to the levels of poverty, crime, and general degradation of places inhabited by black people. I think that a psychologically healthy black population is necessary in order to have a relatively functional democracy in South Africa. White South Africans also need their own projects on working on their psychological damage done by colonialism and apartheid. People often think white South Africans are spared psychological damage because they are on the other side of power, but they are also psychologically screwed up and need to unpack the ways they are implicated in the continued degradation of black life in this country and what they are doing about it.

Written by Lwando Scott 

Reflections: In Search of Happiness


Author: Sonswabiso Ngcowa

Written by Lwando Scott 

“This novel is dedicated to all young people who feel and know that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Your love is as beautiful as love can be. One day all people will understand and respect love, however it comes.This time will come. Sometimes it is here.”

In Search of Happiness gripped me from the dedication page. The dedication is an affirming beginning and sets out the tone for the book. A book about self-discovery, family, loss, and ultimately love. Sonwabiso Ngcowa’s In Search of Happiness succeeds because of its accessibility, the book that can be read by teenagers and adults. It succeeds because it is a story about a black young woman, Nanase, and her journey from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape. It succeeds because it is about discovering that you can find love in places you never thought it could be. This book succeeds because it centres the life of a young black woman who falls in love with another young black woman. This book succeeds because it centralises a love story that is often not seen as a love story in this country.

While many may still consider LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) lives a taboo subject, Sonwabiso dares to go there. LGBTI South Africans are often depicted as people without friends, without brothers and sisters, without parents. They are rarely seen as parents themselves. Sonwabiso’s lead character, Nanase, is a young woman with friends, a grandmother that she loves, she has a mother and father, and she has siblings. Nanase’s story helps society see LGBTI people as part of social circles and coming from families and that homophobia doesn’t just hurt the individual but entire families.

There is something very real about Nanase’s journey of discovering her attraction to another woman when she moves to Masiphumelele, Cape Town. Although there is a sense of ambivalence in Nanase while she is in the Eastern Cape about her sexual identity, it is not until she moves to Masiphumelele and she meets Agnes that she fully comprehends what’s going on inside her. In Agnes she finds someone she can experience and experiment her feelings with that she had bottled up inside her.

Every chapter tittle in the book is in English but is accompanied by a Xhosa translation. I like this infusion of vernacular language in English texts; maybe we are moving into a time where English fiction will be heavily infused with the vernacular. That is after all how many South Africans speak. Sonwabiso captures the way people in the Eastern Cape view Cape Town. In the Eastern Cape, Cape Town is seen and talked about as the place of dreams, a place where people go and realize their dreams hence the popular phrase “iKapa lodumo” which translates to “the Cape of Fame.” Of course, like most people from the Eastern Cape, Nanase soon finds out that iKapa lodumo is not exactly what it is cracked up to be because it comes with it’s own set of challenges.

When Nanase comes out to her parents it is predictably a very tough conversation and is handled poorly by her parents. She comes out of the experience feeling confused and bewildered and it struck me how family and friends – straight people in general – make coming out all about them and ignore the emotional turmoil of the person coming out. Coming out is a very peculiar experience in the township because unlike in Western society, people don’t often talk about sex/sexuality regardless of orientation. So like Nanase, most LGBTI identified young people in townships struggle with a way to package what is going on in their lives in a way that won’t be read as disrespectful and foreign. Sonwabiso handles the coming out conversation in a relatable manner and I think we need more South African literature that deal with the messiness of coming in the South African context. If we can even call it “coming out.”

Sonwabiso gently manages the issue of difference in this book. South Africans pride themselves of being a diverse country, but at the same time South Africans are intolerant of difference. Difference in South Africa must come in neat and familiar ways in order for it to be palatable. As Nanase discovers that she is different and that her neighbour is also different, she has to deal with intolerance of the community and her friends at school. She has to deal with the mean spirit of people who refuse to constructively engage with difference.

This book is an easy read that touches on very complex issues that people living in townships of South Africa are dealing with. Sonwabiso touches on homophobia, xenophobia, sexual assault, and poverty. These are hard issues to deal with, but Sonwabiso manages to mindfully weave these things together showing us that they are connected. Where you find gender violence you are likely to find homophobia and where you find homophobia you are likely to find xenophobia and so it goes.

In Search of Happiness is aptly titled because we all share this quest for a happier and a more fulfilling life. Like the rest of us Nanase is trying to find her way through a world structured to her disadvantage. In Search of Happiness is the type of book I wish someone had given me when I was in high school going through my own self-discovery phase.

To say this book is timely would be an understatement. This is a must read for high school going young people. It is a must read for all South Africans who are interested in what it means to be young in post-apartheid South Africa. This is a must read if you are interested in stories about young black people written by young black people.