The power of the vote through storytelling

By Zilungile Zimela

The 2019 democratic national elections are upon us and with them come a lot of mixed feelings as to how South Africans who are eligible to vote will swing their vote. This much can be said though, ordinary South Africans are not impressed nor happy with how the show has been run by the ruling party. To interrogate this further, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers as a socio-economic force of young active citizens, collaborated with Sunshine Cinema and My Vote Counts at Tshisimani Centre for activism on 04 May to discuss all things elections through the medium of storytelling.

On arrival and as a measure of setting the scene, we dedicated some time to watch the ACTIVATE! election web series where young people across colour lines and geographic dispersals explain why they believe voting is essential and why they will be taking to the polls come May 08. The series asks critical questions such as  ‘how do we vote’, ‘Does my vote count’ and ‘what is my responsibility’ to mention but a few and at the heart of it all, it aims to hear and understand the voices of young people in relation to their voting power. Watch here for more.

Immediately after that, the room was put in a condition of shifting its attention from everything else and focused solely on the upcoming elections and what it means to have the power to vote. “Whispering Truth to power” a film by seasoned film maker Shemeela Seedat tells of the historic divides that have become deeply entrenched in South Africa’s current narrative history, where justice is concerned. Captured very explicitly, Madonsela who is the protagonist in the film, takes viewers on a journey many South Africans are yet to embark on – a journey of what happens when the state, charged with the responsibility to act in the best interest of the people fails to do so, dismally and repeatedly

The atmosphere in the room allowed for robust discussions to unfold in a safe space carefully created and adequately conducive. Although the cinema was not packed from wall to wall, the information shared there carried volumes of weight. Young people present in the space made it very clear that voting for them at this point is a bit of a challenge and big cause for confusion owing to how little faith they still have left in those in position of authority.

When asked if young people will be voting come the 08 May 2019, this is what they had to say:

“I will not be voting, because there is no party that resonates with me” – Mpatho Bawuti.

“I think I will vote so as to have my say, and so that government continues to give us free education” – Ndumiso Nxele, UCT

“I am passionate about removing people from power who are pompous and yes I will be voting” – Noni Nozuko Ponni, Sunshine Cinema

“I will be voting for a majority party just to remove the arrogance from the ruling party, how do you say Asinavalo as the ruling party in a country that requires you to have uvalo about how things are going”- Anele Gcwabe, Activate Change Drivers … Uvalo is a Xhosa term for fear and or worry.

“It is my democratic right to vote and I will exercise it” – Nokuthula Thuly Bonga

“I am still not certain if I will be voting because I still struggle with this question – what is morally right or wrong in this country” – Mkhululi Jonas, Digital Marketing Specialist

“There is a strong need to have more private institutions that will not censor us when we have to share raw information about how things are going in this country, I will be voting because it is the right thing to do” – Joel Bregman, Director at My Vote Counts

What was resoundingly clear in the room is that young people have lost confidence in the country’s ability to elect leaders that will deliver on their promises and as such have resolved to vote for minority parties so as to remove the ruling party from the majority seat.

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