A South African man casts his ballot in advance voting at a polling station in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township April 21, 2009. South Africans vote in a general election on Wednesday which is set to return the African National Congress to power for another five years and bring party leader Jacob Zuma to the presidency. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (SOUTH AFRICA POLITICS ELECTIONS)

I stand before you as a 19-year-old South African conflicted about voting in the coming elections, writes Farai Mubaiwa.

Durban - “The power to change the nation lies in your hands” someone once told me. These words of encouragement were furthered by politicians, and even ordinary citizens throughout my years. They painted the “right to vote” with colours of absolute freedom, passion and change.

Moreover, they perpetuated this image through our schooling systems by constantly reminding us that since we are the “born-frees” of this land, then we are the ones who can ultimately continue the legacy that our freedom fighters fought for. They lied to us.

Or rather, they omitted vital information. They did not tell us that this right to vote would comprise debate between apathy, compromise or rebellion.

 The reality is that the South African youth are discontented. We are disappointed with the lack of quality, transparent and accountable political parties; dismayed at the behaviour of our so-called political leaders in Parliament, and disgusted at the disregard for the needs of the public.

I stand before you as a 19-year-old South African girl conflicted about voting in the coming elections. Like many of the disgruntled youth, I do not believe that any of the political parties participating in this election can implement the necessary changes that are needed in South Africa.

Voting for the first time is as important as losing one’s virginity. It is my voting virginity – my voginity.

Should I save my voginity for the right political party, or should I simply compromise for the sake of using my voginity and hope that my vote will impact society positively?

A survey by Pondering Panda conducted in July last year, indicates that 23 percent of youth (18-34 years of age) do not plan on voting, as most feel there is no one worth voting for, or that voting will not change the nation.

I concluded that the youth are considering three options.

Either not voting, which places us in the “apathetic” category, and means that every time we complain about the state of the nation, comments like “Well, it’s not as if you voted to change things” will fly towards us – and rightfully so.

Furthermore, our freedom fighters fought for the right for all to vote, and many youth are conflicted with the idea of not exercising this right.

Our second option is to compromise by voting for the closest party that represents our ideals.

However, is the culture of compromise and not taking a stand, not the reason why our government openly lacks accountability and transparency?

And lastly, we as the youth can rebel by spoiling the ballot.

The spoiling of the ballot is seen as a legitimate vote in itself, and has been a concept widely debated by many universities.

The ANC, which played such a major role in the fight for freedom in the apartheid era, has failed the people of this land dismally.

The scandalous Nkandla debacle, which cost taxpayers an estimated R264 million, which our “Excellency” President Jacob Zuma continues to deny and refuses to pay back the money.

Furthermore, this Nkandla scandal is not the only despicable scandal of selfishness and disrespect that the ANC has involved itself in over the years.

We live in a society where nepotism, corruption and dishonesty run rampant. A government that fails to fulfil its mandate to protect and cater for the needs of its people is bad enough. But a government that not only fails its mandate, but also steals from the same people who voted it into power, and moreover insinuates that citizens are “stupid” by constantly denying accusations and yet repeating the same actions over and over again, is simply disgusting.

The youth have also become disheartened with the opposition parties.

The DA, once a party with so much hope and determination, has began to disappoint.

Most students at Stellenbosch University were deeply dismayed earlier this year when Helen Zille addressed them and attempted to connect with students using the “cool” approach, by sharing stories of her dress fittings, favourite days of the year and dinner with the president.

As students we enjoy discussing “fun” topics; however, when it is time to discuss important matters, political leaders should address us as they would other working individuals.

Agang SA also deeply disappointed many youth. The party with a passionate, stimulating and highly intellectual orator seems to have gone under the radar since the failed coalition with the DA.

Many believed that Agang alongside the DA was the way forward, and rejoiced when the parties merged, but were infuriated when political pride resulted in a split.

Furthermore, it angered many of the youth that Ramphele made many unilateral decisions and failed to consult with the very supporters who believed in her.

The EFF is the EFF; the party with interesting concepts and some excellent analysis in their mandate, but with a leader who is similar to George Orwell’s Snowball.

So who exactly are we left with? Well, the minority parties of course – Cope, the third cousin of politics who shows its face at family events once in a blue moon.

In all honesty, I am unsure about what my actions will be on May 7.

I have thus decided that I have only two options: rebel by spoiling the ballot, or to compromise by voting.

Spoiling the ballot is still a vote in itself. It is in fact a powerful vote that demonstrates the frustration of the people with the quality of our political leaders and parties. But would it really stir up a political debate and governmental concern?

And if I take this stand, who will listen, after all?

Surely, the winning party will be in power and will have no direct obligation to cater to my demands, seeing I did not vote for them?

And if I do compromise, will I vote to choose the next best thing to my ideal party, or will I vote simply to keep a certain party out of power?

Does my compromise really reveal my passion for South Africa?

I cannot seem to find a “right” answer.

All I know right now is that if I lose my voginity, I must be satisfied with my decision and it should be the decision which I believe is best for the progress of our nation.

As Alan Paton said “Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear”.

In view of the disgruntled youth, I say: Cry, the beloved country for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our confusion, our dismay, our corrupt and nepotistic government.

Cry, the beloved country.


* Farai Mubaiwa was born in 1994 and is in her second year of a B.Accounting degree at Stellenbosch University.

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

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