Sunday, October 12, 2003

I want to return to the issue of overseas voting..

When the news of this decision broke 2 weeks ago a number of the South Africans at Oxford launched an email discussion to debate the pros and cons of what had happened. The thing that most struck me about the way that people reacted was the polarisation of opinion. One of the correspondents accused me of being offensive for suggesting that most South Africans abroad were unlikely to be ANC supporters. Another suggested that it wasn't the govt that we ought to reserve our cynicism for but the media source that broke the story (and which I've linked to down the page). At the other end of the spectrum were the usual bunch of jeremiahs proclaiming that this was yet another step towards the inevitable abyss. I found this disturbing but not surprising. The apologists in their rush to come to the ANC's defence had ignored what was screamingly obvious, namely that the govt had calculated that it would do better by preventing expats from voting and used its power to amend the bill accordingly. Admitting this appeared to be tantamount to what... treason, lack of faith in South Africa, reactionary conservatism? My sense is that for some white South Africans, the claim to a place in SA is contingent upon blind support for the ANC. Thus you can be cynical about everything else but you can't be cynical about the ANC.

The ANCs decision is good politics of course although hypocritical from an organisation that claims to be the defender of democracy in SA. It reveals a rather disturbing ambivalence about the importance of the right to vote but, nevertheless, it doesn't herald the beginning of the end. Which was a point lost on some of the other contributors to the discussion.

So is this the trend? You can either be a hyper-patriot who slavishly toes the party line or you can throw your hands up in horror and preach the end? What is so lacking in debates about SA are calm rational voices whose loyalties lie neither to party nor to the past but to the truth. Bring on the sceptics, I say.


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