It’s more than just about winning today

By the time you read this, chances are you will have made your cross(es), and dropped your all-important ballot paper into the ballot box(es) in your voting station, and you’ll probably be sitting back and enjoying the public holiday.

Once the voting stations close at 7pm, you’ll possibly keep an eye on the TV, as the electronic leaderboard at IEC headquarters updates, each time the count for a voting station is input and confirmed.

You’ll be waiting, like so many other people, to hear who won and who lost.

And that is actually what the problem is with this election, and by extension with our politics.

It’s all about winning and losing. It is the ultimate in zero-sum politics, and that has become increasingly evident in the heated rhetoric that has accompanied the stump in the lead up to this crucial, truly watershed election.

All of the parties contesting this election – a staggering 77 in the Western Cape, the highest number in the country – are adamant that they, and only they, can govern successfully, and to the extent of their funding and volunteer support, they will have been telling us so.

Whenever we see television coverage of the hustings, we are assaulted by images which scream party: the black/ green/ gold of the ANC, blue of the DA, and red of the EFF.

Every party is running full tilt towards the finish line, in a desperate attempt to be the first across, to beat the others, to win the ward, the muni-cipality, the metro, as if when that happens, all of the inequities in our society – the lack of service delivery, the lack of employment opportunities, the grinding poverty, the stark inequality will magically disappear.

The posters scream at us “Vote ANC”, “Vote DA”, “Vote EFF”, “Vote FF+”, “Vote Cape Party”, subjecting us to what IEC Western Cape electoral officer Courtney Sampson calls “the tyranny of political parties”.

They tell us what to do, but do they ever do what we tell them to do?

When you wake up tomorrow, irrespective of which party won which ward/municipality/metro, virtually nothing will change.

The service delivery protests that plague our society will not magically evaporate, because there was been a change in the party political make up of local government.

No party or person has that magic wand, neither the ANC, nor the DA, nor the EFF nor Jacob Zuma, nor Mmusi Maimane nor Julius Malema, nor any of the other 74 parties and their leaders contesting this election in the Western Cape.

This vote is not about the bigger national issues that plague our society.

It is about the bread and butter issues of potholes in the road in Somerset West; access to clean running water in Kayamandi; access to primary healthcare services in Nomzamo; access to housing in Mbekweni; street lights that work in Franschhoek; or even pavements in Stellenbosch.

Each ward will have a ward councillor after this election: we can hold these people accountable for delivering the services we have a right to expect, rather than a faceless party.

We can call them up when there is a water leak in the road outside our home, or when raw sewage runs down the street, or when we have to wait for hours on end to get to see a doctor at a day clinic, or when the lack of street lights (because of cable theft) make it unsafe to walk our streets at night.

We can take back our power as voters, and send a clear message to the political parties who so ardently sought our vote: that we will hold them accountable, through their elected representatives.

And God help them, if they do not deliver.

* Depending where you live, you may have up to three ballot papers to complete: a ward councillor ballot (individual), a proportional representation ballot (party), and/or a district council ballot (party).