Bryan Rostron | Who to vote for not an easy call

A person placing their vote into their ballot box.
A person placing their vote into their ballot box.
Image: iStock Images

Blessed are those who have a clear idea of how they are about to vote.

Well, perhaps not. Citizens already certain of where they will place their mark on the ballot paper on May 8 may either be so slavishly loyal that they ignore any challenging evidence, or they simply haven’t been paying attention to the news.

The stakes are high. After Jacob Zuma, the state hasn’t simply been “captured”, there’s been a stealthy coup d’état.

So who is best placed to right our heavily listing ship of state?

Our two major political contenders frequently contradict themselves.

Both the ANC and DA host sizeable in-house factions and policy fissures.

In the ANC this can prove fatal, with some councillors shot by party rivals.

Meanwhile, the DA has conducted highly publicised policy spats, although at least its weapons are metaphorical (as in, “a stab in the back”).

Internal splits will be glossed over during this election campaign – but can we be guaranteed precisely what we are voting for in either case?

If we back the ANC, will the Ramaphosas or Zumas finally win out?

With the DA, will it be gung-ho free marketeers or milky social democrats who nudge ahead?

Urban legends flourish on all sides.

Recently, I’ve been astonished at the number of welleducated white folk who declare, “I refuse to follow the news anymore”.

Yet, most seem to know how they will vote, even though much of their information may be based on rumour.

A smart white professional rang me last week, most concerned: “My neighbour says the ANC will expropriate all white properties and lease them back to us for 25 years.”

At least he asked if this was true.

His neighbour, though, will probably vote on that basis. Contradictions abound. The most consistent theme for the DA is “fiscal responsibility”, a counter to ANC profligacy.

Yet, if there are no arrests for corruption “in a reasonable amount of time”, Western Cape premier Helen Zille threatens to lead a tax revolt (“just watch me”).

Most DA supporters deplore a “culture of nonpayment”, such as Soweto residents who owe R17bn to Eskom.

Thus when a Business Day headline on March 5 announced, “DA will push for strict rules on spending if it gets to govern SA”, it sounded ideally virtuous.

But if Zille’s followers join our pervasive “culture of nonpayment”, there won’t be any cash left in the coffers.

Then there’s anger, bubbling up everywhere, even among the fortunate minority.

Many well-heeled Capetonians are fuming about their new rates assessments.

“What are they doing for me?” a well-off white gent stormed at me the other day. “I’ll never vote DA again!” So much for the national interest.

Another anomaly is white suburbanites who found the EFF antics in the Zuma-era parliament amusing, thrilling even, yet now cite EFF populism as a spur to emigration.

It’s a parallel thought process to that of the EFF, where logic is discarded for magical thinking (“I want it, therefore it will be so”).

Last December in an opinion piece I compared the EFF dress code to other militaristic movements: the Nazis wore brown shirts, Italian fascists black, in Spain blue, Romania green, etc.

The one group that I omitted were, in fact, the most relevant.

In SA, our 1930s and ‘40s fascists called themselves Grey shirts.

Similarities include rabid racial chauvinism, a taste for violence, paranoid conspiracy fantasies and crass racial prejudices.

Julius Malema has voiced anti-white, anti-Indian and anti-Semitic sentiments.

He has travelled to meet and study at first hand the populist techniques of Robert Mugabe, Hugo Chavez and the Nigerian multimillionaire “prophet”, TB Joshua.

Malema is a mountebank – though it is premature to talk about banks, as we don’t yet know in detail how much cash the EFF got from VBS Bank and other shysters.

At the opposite end of our bipolar spectrum, the Freedom Front Plus proudly paraded its candidate for premier of the Western Cape, the hot-air balloon, Pieter Marais, whose CV is strewn with cynical party switches and scandals.

For lack of clear and consistent policies all round, it is we soon-to-be voters who end up as collateral damage.

Right now, I have a hunch of how I might cast my ballot.

But just as I think that I’ve got the measure of it, some smarmy party hack confirms the verdict of W H Auden’s poem: “All sane and affirmative speech,/Had been soiled, profaned, debased/To a horrid mechanical screech.”

It’s going to be a tough few weeks.

Bryan Rostron is a journalist and author.