An open letter to Lorne Hallendorff and Anton Taylor.
I consider you both to be significant persons among the student body of UCT at present.
I heard each of you share your views on voting at the Soap Box dialogue hosted by InkuluFreeHeid in collaboration with the SRC on Thursday, October 3rd. I wish to respond to your equally unsettling sentiments by way of this letter.
You both spoke to the kind of message which students who refuse to participate in elections are sending. These sentiments were expressed without a representative of those against whom you lodged your criticism, while at the same time celebrating the virtues of democracy. If you believe in democracy, as you have made clear, then it would be reasonable for you to allow those who do not vote the option of expressing this personal freedom through their act of abstinence, without making claims on their behalf.
The boycott of the vote is a deliberate political act, regardless of its passivity, which should be celebrated by the freedom you claim that democracy ensures.
Secondly, the liberal democracy model which we experience in this country is a construct of Western modernity. The model becomes highly problematic when imposed on a former colony such as this one. A claim to the value of participation in such a model is negligent when devoid of proper consideration of this imposition.
In response to Lorne: The message that is sent through the boycott is precisely to show the illegitimacy of the current state – where despite voting, large majorities of people remain in squalor. So it is a message which speaks to a high degree of concern, not the lack thereof (as you suggested), that the boycott sends.
In response to Anton: the logic that those who do not vote are simultaneously denied the right to express complaint displays a remarkable lack of insight. People participate (and die) in service delivery protests because their human rights are denied – this depravity affects those who vote and those who abstain alike. Are you suggesting that those who boycott the vote should be deterred from claiming their humanity?
Another form of democracy is possible; one where people do not just participate in the public spectacle of voting and subsequently remain in abject poverty.