Sunday Tribune deputy editor Mazwi Xaba

When 11 million voters cast their ballots during the 2014 general elections, President Jacob Zuma’s face and the colours of the ANC were on the ballot paper where they put their crosses, writes Mazwi Xaba. 

When Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump but came short in the number of Electoral College votes in last year’s US presidential election, many citizens of one of the world’s oldest and biggest democracies cried foul.

The calls for electoral rules to be adjusted rose to probably their highest pitch. Some urged the college selectors to break the rules and “break faith” with their states or, to use a South African phrase, “to vote with their conscience” to stop Trump at his last hurdle in his race to the White House.

Legally, there was not much to stop the selectors voting against the wishes of the ordinary citizens in that historic and controversial presidential election of November 8 last year. But they all knew they’d be undermining the democratic process in the name of the short-term goal of stopping Trump.

Since 1787, selectors have largely voted with discipline and in accordance with the wishes of the electorate, even when they did not like or agree with the president-elect or the vice-president-elect. But more than ever before, many US citizens last year had plenty of valid, cogent and irreproachable reasons not to allow Trump to be president.

Thankfully, for democracy’s sake and the stability of the world’s biggest economy and that of the entire globe, not enough of the selectors broke faith with their constituencies in the states. Trump and, importantly, democracy prevailed.

When 11 million voters cast their ballots during the 2014 general elections, President Jacob Zuma’s face and the colours of the ANC were on the ballot paper where they put their crosses. 

They gave the ANC, with Zuma at the helm, the mandate to form the current government. Therefore, it would be undermining democracy for MPs, as justified as their reasons may be, to vote with their conscience. It would be tantamount to breaking the rules of the democratic game for any MP to vote as they pleased, against the wishes of their party that obtained their mandate from common voters who expressed their choices on the day of the general election.

It may be debatable whether breaking party faith is like “throwing a nuclear bomb at our country”, but such action may take our young democracy into uncharted and treacherous waters.

Sunday Independent