Is ‘none of the above’ a ballot paper option?

Few developments provoked a more virulent response ahead of the May 7 general elections than the call by former ANC stalwarts to spoil one’s ballot.
The campaign ‘in defence’ of democracy was launched in Johannesburg about a week ago, calling on citizens to spoil their ballot or to vote ‘tactically’ for a minority party.
Signatories to the campaign include former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, former UNISA vice-chancellor Barney Pityana, author Breyten Breytenbach, cartoonist Zapiro and academics Sampie Terreblanche, Devan Pillay and Karl von Holdt.
The campaign is a clear attack on the corruption-tainted ruling party, specifically under the tenure of president Jacob Zuma, and its leading lights have no shortage of ammunition.
Citing the infamous R246 million state-funded security upgrades to Zuma’s private Nkandla home, campaigners also pointed to the Marikana debacle in 2012, among other concerns, in their bid to open debate and ‘deepen the understanding’ of what has gone wrong and what needs to be done to ensure that the constitution is honoured and implemented.
Not surprisingly, the move unleashed a torrent of vitriol, mainly aimed at Karils, with the theme of betrayal deeply resonant. In the words of defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Kasrils’ call is a “betrayal against everything we fought for in this country”.
The real betrayal, at least as far as Kasrils’ detractors are concerned, is less about the tactic of spoiling a vote, but that the campaign is aimed at the ANC. Little wonder that one of the options promoted by the crusade, that of voting for a minority party, “but not the DA”, has drowned in the noise.
As some observers have pointed out, the campaign is aimed specifically at ANC supporters who are no longer happy with their political home, but feel they don’t have an alternative.
The jury may be out on the effectiveness of such a call, but there’s no denying the validity of such a democratic option. Put differently, spoiling a ballot is a greater contribution to democracy than staying at home as it signals support for the democratic process, but not the parties contesting it.
Whether South Africa will ever follow the Indian lead, to introduce a ‘none of the above’ option on our ballot papers, remains to be seen. But it sure does widen the democratic choice as it will strip out intended spoilt ballots.

Minority musings
One of the 200-odd parties contesting the May 7 elections is the Ubuntu Party, but we somehow doubt it will benefit from a tactical vote as proposed by the spoilt-ballot campaign.
Having secured the R200 000 deposit to participate in the vote through a global Internet crowd-funding drive, its real challenge is to explain its philosophy of ‘Ubuntu Contributionism’, not to mention its fixation with wanting to do away with the banking system. At face value its rhetoric addressing ‘the source of the economic war’ sounds remarkably like that propounded by one Julius Malema and his red beret brigade, especially when the Ubuntu lot rails against the private banks, the South African Reserve Bank and ‘the private money created out of thin air’.
Much as we can question some of the egalitarian objectives of the party, we love it for spicing up the electoral mix.

Waste Challenge

One of the many challenges facing the city is the landfill site off New England Road. Repeated attempts to manage it better and for it to be converted into an income-generating facility have been stymied. But the deepest irony is that the landfill represents graphically the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ syndrome of Pietermaritzburg residents whose only concern is for their domestic rubbish to be collected, not where it ends up.

Last word
Thanks to Paul Vogt for this contribution from the Washington Post that periodically runs a contest where readers are invited to make up their own words
Glibido: All talk and no action.

Derek Alberts

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