Social worker John Clarke usually finds himself in places far from major city centres. But in this election story, he speaks of lost ID cards, long queues and catching lifts with strangers, as he seeks to get the right documentation to vote in the municipal elections. A vote he hopes can save the City of Johannesburg. – Stuart Lowman
By John GI Clarke*
Come to think of it, elections are a kind of temporary insanity. Reality is dumbed down into artificial binaries and opposing positions are mutually caricatured in dualistic misrepresentations that tend to stoke fear and anger rather than inspire hope.
There are good and bad people in all parties, and the main antidote to the temporary insanity becoming a permanent condition is to ensure the ‘winners’ don’t become too high on their own juice, whatever their ideological stripe.
Now that all parties have been compelled to engage in coalition politics, I think the table has now been well laid in Johannesburg for sanity to return.
If we can see the funny side.
Last Tuesday, the day before the elections, a Whatsapp exchange with my 24 year old daughter Aimee, reveals how my single vote may just end up changing the course of electoral politics in South Africa.
Me: Have you found my ID book? Otherwise I can’t vote. And the ANC might lose Joburg by one vote (weeping emoticon).
Aimee: Dad, I told you ages ago that u should go and get you smart ID! I have lost yours. I thought we had accepted it (emoticon weeping from both eyes). I’m sorry daddy but seriously its frikken gone. (another weeping emoticon).
Me: So the DA will win Joburg. Boo hoo (ditto emoticon).
Aimee: Please tell me you are joking.
Me: I will get a temp ID from home affairs tomorrow.
Aimee: Temps aren’t accepted! It’s on the IEC website. And Home Affairs won’t be open.
Me: Not what I heard. Last election Mom got a temp ID and voted.
Aimee: Good luck Dad. Honestly really hope you manage tomorrow. But surely Home Affairs will be closed?
Me: Home affairs is open for the sake of fathers who are inconvenienced by their children. That’s why it’s called “home affairs” (four LOL emoticons).
Aimee: Hahahahaha LOL.
Aimee: I told my friends, but they didn’t laugh.
Me: It’s a dad, daughter ‘home affairs’ thing. Foreign to them obviously. Send them to Foreign Affairs.
But it’s only open on Thursday.
Aimee: Hahahahah. Loving the dad jokes.
I arrive at Randburg Home Affairs. It is indeed technically open, but the queue stretches all the way out the door, right up to the perimeter gate.
Me: Queue at Home Affairs. Please come and keep my place. It will only be for about three hours or so (Glaring angry emoticon).
Aimee: (No response).
After an hour or so, it is clear that the queue is only moving at a glacial rate. Pushing sixty, my joints and spine are hurting. The winter wind blows gaps in my resolve. I am trembling on the edge of giving up when a stranger a few places ahead turns around and spots a friend who happens to be behind me.
Stranger: “Hi Mandy. Hey I have just got confirmation. There is no queue in Germiston Home Affairs. Why don’t we drive there instead? Twenty minutes each way and twenty minutes to get our ID’s and we will have saved two hours. We can go in my car. I will drop you back here.
Sounds like a cool plan.
“Mind if I join you?” I rudely interject. “I will buy you coffee”
“Sure”. We shake on it.
Stranger’s name is Tyrone. Works in motor industry. His car is fast. Mandy is cool too. Turns out we have a good mutual friend. Mark ‘Section 27’ Heywood. She tells me about their youth together in Botswana. Mark was a born activist, apparently. Even at school. So we are not such strangers after all.
Tyrone is younger, and more Aimee’s generation.
I hasten to Whatsapp her.
Me: Decided to go to Germiston to get my temp ID. There is no queue there. So you don’t need come to Randburg to keep my place. (Alas Whatsapp doesn’t have a sarcastic emotikon).
While at Germiston Home Affairs I start uploading a post to FaceBook
“Now sitting in a very much more pleasant Govt office in Germiston. We expect to be back in Blairgowrie and ready to vote within the hour. Haven’t decided whether to go and gloat over the poor suckers still making glacial progress back in Randburg.”
Not only are we able to get temp ID’s but Germiston is also open for applications for the new Smart ID, which Randburg is not.
I am scarcely finished before I get called to collect my temp ID and pay for that and my new permanent Smart ID.
Afterwards I add a comment to my post. “And the staff here are all so eager to please. The cashier notes from my date of birth that I turn sixty later this month. Advises me that a new smart I’d is free for pensioners. Refunds me the R140.”
The post garners 25 reactions, including one from Aimee who comments.
Aimee: Dad I knew you would make this an awesome experience in some way!! J and you’d make friends. Classic dad. Sorry I lost your ID. Surprised you didn’t name and shame me on FB
(I would never dream of doing so.)
I was of course just kidding about voting for the ANC to tease her. Not being a partly political animal, as is my custom, I lent my vote to an opposition party. I say ‘lent’ rather than ‘give’, because no political party must be allowed to think they can claim it as a permanent endowment. That was the mistake the ANC made. I voted for the ANC when it was still a liberation movement. I think we are now realizing that when the ‘liberation movement’ holds the best of its people in bondage to stifling patronage that authentic liberation must mean going all the way to liberating oneself from the ‘liberation movement’ itself.
Me: BTW did you see that the UDM (the party I voted for) managed to secure a proportional representation seat in Joburg by one solitary vote. Mine.
All indications are that the UDM will go into coalition with the DA and dislodge the ANC.
Aimee: (I await her response. She is busy partying it at Oppikoppie.)
To be continued. No doubt.
- John GI Clarke is a social worker and author of “The Promise of Justice: King Justice Mpondombini Sigcau’s struggle to save the Kingdom of AmaMpondo against unjust developments”.