By Anees Teladia
As provincial and national elections draw closer in South Africa, political parties have ramped up their campaigns and are seeking to gain political points through the typical rhetoric that has come to be characteristic of election season. Last week, however, saw South African politics faced with an issue that is widely considered a plague to almost all functioning democracies – politically inspired violence.
Hout Bay was set to be the scene of a robust political debate between various political parties. However, the debate that was meant to give these political parties a platform and provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about their options, degenerated into a scrap between parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Land Party.
The side-tracked debate saw, among other things, chairs being thrown and what appeared to be an attempted slapping of a woman by someone appearing to be an EFF member or supporter.
Deputy National Coordinator of Right2Know, Ghalib Galant told the VOC that voters need to “ask ourselves what kind of leaders we want to see in power” when we make the important selection on voting day.
“Elections are critically about ethical leadership. We are selecting provincial and national leaders for the next five years… [political leaders] should serve as examples to other citizens,” said Galant.
“Prohibited conduct under the Electoral Code includes using language which provokes violence and the intimidation of candidates or voters. What we had seen in Hout Bay, what we see elsewhere, is not what we have intended for our politics around the elections to be about.”
We have to ask ourselves some critical questions – one of which being ‘is this the kind of leadership and society, i.e. one that encourages and fosters violence, that we want to have going forward’.”
In South Africa, a culture of violence has been perpetuated and continues to harm our society.
Accordingly, Galant believes we need to account for this and not disregard it as a natural phenomenon – least of all in the political world.
When asked whether he thinks the recent incident in Hout Bay would influence voter decisions, Galant said he was hopeful that it would be a catalyst for critical thinking.
“…because as critical voters and active citizens, we should be asking ourselves questions and holding those who want to lead us to a higher standard. My concern would be that for many of us, we’ve grown up in a culture of violence – so we don’t see it as an unusual thing. That, to me, is the biggest concern,” said Galant.
“Voters have an obligation to themselves and the rest of the country, to ensure that the kind of leadership we put into place is one that will turn us off this path of violence, intolerance and separation – in both the way we speak and behave.”
Galant urged voters to examine the manifestos of the various parties whilst also remaining cognisant of practical goals and the typical outlandish or impressive rhetoric that political parties often churn out.
He also cautioned voters about those smaller parties who only seem to have one issue on their agenda whilst the province and country face a multitude of challenges.
“If some promises are so outlandish and sound like a utopia, you wouldn’t actually be able to budget for them…so [the promises] wouldn’t be achievable. This is something you should consider as a voter,” said Galant.
Look at the different parties’ manifestos – what are they really saying? Look at the implications of what they’re saying.”
“There’s value in voting for a smaller party, but the problem is that smaller parties are often only campaigning on one issue. We are facing a range of complex questions and not just one issue in our lives.”
“We should also look at the funding for all these parties.”