Democracy means the freedom to vote or not. South Africans don’t owe those who fought in the struggle a perpetual debt, says Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.
Pretoria - There is a proverb often attributed to the Chinese which goes: if you save a person’s life you are responsible for the rest of it.
What is always striking about this phrase – which some dispute and choose to place at the door of popular adventure stories – is that it intuitively ought to be the other way round.
Insofar as politics are concerned, South African are clearly not Chinese.
In South African politics one owes the party that saves you from political bondage for the rest of one’s life.
The debt is sometimes passed on to the generations after the liberators and the liberated.
I would prefer a scenario where all debts are paid up and all are square at some point.
If I cannot have that, I’d settle for the life saver taking the responsibility for the saved, and not the other way round.
With the latter option, I would not have to live my entire life under the cloud of having to be reminded every time I question the logic or the acts of my saviour.
It would free me from the never ending political blackmail that seems to have no limits or time frame.
The most recent example of this blackmail is on voting.
Reading and hearing some of the vitriol levelled at ANC stalwarts Ronnie Kasrils and Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge’s Vukani Sidikiwe Vote No! campaign, you’d swear voting is the only way of proving that one is free – when it is not.
For example, Ugandan gays can vote but they can hardly be called free.
The struggle for freedom and human rights was so that I could exercise my rights in an atmosphere where everyone has the same rights. Also, to opt out if I so wished unless such an option would limit the rights and freedoms of others.
To me being free meant that just because I am black does not mean that I can only live in so-called black areas that the apartheid government had legislated I should stay. It also meant I could choose to stay in a township and not in previously whites-only suburbia if I so wished.
To me being free must mean I can buy alcohol on a Sunday if I so wish and not be bound by another person’s religious sensibilities about a perfect time to buy or drink alcohol.
Freedom must also mean that the rights of those who believe and those who do not are treated with the same respect, unlike in some countries of the likes of Afghanistan or parts of Nigeria where everyone must kneel or bow before a prescribed god.
Logically, my freedom must also mean I can choose to not vote.
I should be able to choose this option without having to justify myself to anyone, including those whose struggles allow me to have the option.
So whatever you might think of Kasrils and Madlala-Routledge’s campaign, it will be anti-freedom to demand that anyone vote. It is an act of cheap desperation to invoke the names of struggle icons to vilify their campaign.
The vilification campaign pretends that the option to abstain is one available only to ingrates.
There are as many good reasons why people should exercise the right to vote as there are to abstain from it.
Instead of threats, swearwords, blackmail and whatever else, everyone on either side of the debate will probably get a better ear of their opponents by showing the flaws of the opposing view.
To force anyone to do anything they – out of their own volition would not do – is in fact to spit on the graves and faces of those who fought for freedom.
Anyone who fought for freedom so they would be owed a perpetual debt is like a mother who demands unquestioned loyalty on her grown-up children on the grounds that she gave birth to them and breastfed them.
Most right thinking people would be grateful that their parents made the sacrifices they had made to raise them to be what they are.
We must ask questions though when a parent stops short of giving their child an invoice for the meals, clothes, school fees, boarding and lodging they spent on them while growing up.
To demand that we vote because “they” struggled for it is to want to exchange one form of bondage with another.
Freedom that does not allow you to make choices – including foolish ones and live with the consequences thereof – is no freedom at all.
So whether you vote or don’t vote, I really could not care. I care even less who you will be voting for or against.
If whatever decision you make is made out of an undue sense of obligation or coercion then the struggle for freedom has been wasted on you.
* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is executive editor of the Pretoria News