It’s been a week of outrage but will it translate to the ballot box?

It’s been a week of outrage: Gareth Cliff mansplaining and muting Mudzuli Rakhivhane as DA leader John Steenhuizen looked on, apparently smirking; King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo of the abaThembu chucking his old DA t-shirt in for an EFF sponsored SUV; and, then Quinton de Kock refusing to take a knee and pulling out of the Proteas.

And that was all before Wednesday and the Decuplet Report. 

Almost, as if in response, Eskom upped the ante with Stage 4 Loadshedding. Sod’s Law kicked in with Joburg’s infrastructure collapsing across part of the northern suburbs for an unexplained extended black out. And then the ANC got stuck in demanding answers of Eskom, huffing and puffing in cognitive dissonance given that the government it created has run Eskom for the last 27 years – while some of its connected members scored tenders from them. Two issues that are not wholly unrelated to our current crisis.

Social media, as the millennials would say, has been lit. Just how lit, will be revealed on Monday when the country goes to the polls for the sixth local government election. It’s an important election, after all – according to a slew of unutterably depressing media reports this week – half of our municipalities are bankrupt, many are wholly dysfunctional and, in some, taps run dry as untreated effluent runs between the potholes down the main roads.

But will this outrage translate to the ballot box? How representative are the keyboard warriors and worriers of the rest of South Africa? Even more pertinently, given the very real fractures in our society, is there actually a real desire to mend bridges or a concerted effort to retreat to ethnic laagers in the face of all the identity politics? What about the youth who didn’t register to vote? What about those who can’t even be bothered to vote on Monday?

Social media doesn’t tell us if there’s any hope, probably because there is no nuance in limited characters and rational debate doesn’t get retweeted – in fact many of the worst offenders have repetitive stress injuries on their fingers from blocking people’s views that don’t accord with theirs. 

But what do we do if the doomsayers are right; what if all whites are racist apartheid deniers and all blacks want land and jobs (and others’ saving accounts), manje? There’ll still be load shedding after Monday. We’ll still have councils on their knees. We’ll still have foreign immigrants doing their absolute best to eke out a living doing things many South Africans believe are beneath them but want to kill them for having the temerity to do so.

But maybe there are actually South Africans who do care, irrespective of their political beliefs, about one another. Maybe there are many who do give to others without the compulsive need to share it with the world. Maybe there are enough people who still believe in the derided Rainbow, even after the gravy train derailed itself on the pot of gold. 

Let’s hope so. We need them now more than ever.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 30 October 2021.