Final clearance sale: all votes must go!

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IOL  st file elctions1994 1 REUTERS Voters queue at a polling station in Freedom Park informal settlement, Soweto, in 2009. The writer urges South Africans to go out on Wednesday and decide who should rule the country.

Stop searching for a perfect match. Accept it is now an exercise in choosing the best among unequals, says Eusebius McKaiser.

Johannesburg - I’m definitely voting. I’m not spoiling my vote. I’m not voting tactically. I’m voting for the same party provincially and nationally. And I’m satisfied but not massively excited about my choices.

First, as I’ve previously explained in this column, not voting or spoiling your ballot are options that are not in your interest.

Have a say in who gets to have the power to form laws and policies that will affect you. Staying at home won’t make you immune to the effects of a new government's power. You will be subject to all laws even if you didn’t choose the government.

The same goes for spoiling your ballots – so ignore ANC stalwart Ronnie Kasrils and don’t even think of spoiling your ballot. Rather influence the composition of the government.

But then, horror of horrors, who should I vote for? An ANC government with a deep leadership and ethical crises and patchy governance record with a grocery list of corruption scandals?

A DA that cannot tell us how 8 percent growth will guarantee 6 million “real” jobs or how that in turn will reduce inequality in South Africa?

They assume, as Tim Harris did at The Star and eNCA’s debate on Thursday and then repeated on my radio show with glib assertion, that merely growing the economy will be a silver bullet for inequality and joblessness. The details remain sketchy.

And this is not yet to talk of their own branding and identity turn-offs, from Helen Zille’s shouting at critics and analysts to the party’s confusion on racial identity and its place in our lived realities and redress policies.

And then there are the assortment of disparate small parties from the last kicks of a dying horse – call it Cope – to the noise of newcomers EFF, who won’t know what to do the morning after they win some seats in Parliament.

So what must you do on Wednesday? Simple. Stop searching for a perfect match between your identity and convictions and those of a party. You won’t find a perfect match.

Accept it is now an exercise in choosing the best among unequals. It’s a bit like being at the club and arrogantly eyeing only hot guys the whole night.

And then you realise it’s 1.30am and the club closes at 2am. Then you change criteria. Now it becomes a final clearance sale. All stock must go!

You change criteria and accept that the parameters have changed. Which party will do the least damage in government? Which party will be the best?

That’s not tactical voting, in my book. That’s still being guided by your most deeply held convictions about politics.

Tactical voting is not inherently foolish. But it has become a lazy buzz phrase. You can vote for opposition on the basis of alignment – even imperfect alignment for now – with your most deeply held convictions. Happy stressing!

And if you do vote tactically, don’t do so arbitrarily. Don’t just vote, for example, to simply reduce, say, the ANC’s power, if that turns out to be your particular tactical aim.

Remember to also ask yourself: What are the skills required to be an effective MP who can provide effective oversight in Parliament? I think here of Patricia de Lille at her best in the 1990s or the ANC’s own MP Andrew Feinstein, who later resigned.

They are the gold standard of parliamentary excellence. So make the opposition sweat it out for your vote even if you don’t like this current ANC.

Lastly, don’t rule out split-voting, if tactical voting is an option for you, though not for me.

There’s nothing schizophrenic about choosing a party nationally that you identify with ideologically, for example, but a different one provincially that convinced you it has the technical insight and skill to improve conditions in your province.

Whatever you do, participate in the electoral process on Wednesday. Not because you have a moral duty, but because it’s in your self-interest.

* Eusebius McKaiser hosts ‘Power Talk With Eusebius McKaiser’ on Power 98.7 weekdays 9am to noon.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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