An unsettling encounter with the DA

I envy people who don’t know which party they’ll vote for. I also envy people who vote in line with stereotypes. You know the categories. Black people may vote for the ANC, EFF, IFP, NFP, UDM, COPE, Agang SA and other “black” parties that “give them a place they can call home”. But if they openly support the MF or the DA, tongues start wagging.

I’ve realized that it’s okay to flirt with the various parties’ rhetoric and promises; to bask in the impressions and feelings they evoke. It’s safe to make snap judgments based on the way people look, speak, sing, shout and hold political demonstrations; to pretend to know the ideological stance of parties based on a few slogans, sound bites and rally cries. Majoring in the minors is a great stalling tactic for those that don’t want to look at the facts in order of the facts’ importance. It works for those who’d like to put stumbling blocks in the way of switching over to good governance because they don’t want to admit what the next most logical step is. Being right-brain cogitators, they um and er at the impressions they have on various parties, and others give them justification for doing so instead of telling them to wake up and face the music.

It’s not that people are politically uninformed or entirely irrational. Everyone sees the writing on the wall; not everyone wants to think it’s meant for them. What this all means in this in this country, where one is expected to think in and tick the box that one is expected to belong to, it’s not okay to read a party’s manifesto or examine its track record because that’s dealing with plain, no-frills facts. And facts may leave one in conflict with where the stereotypes say one is supposed to be.

Facts are inconvenient because they upset and trump every argument gathered against them. Of course, one wonders whether any argument that side-lines the facts is an argument in the first place. Because when the dust settles, the truth has an unforgiving way of being black and white; even nuance and perspective that have held us in their spell finally give way to facts. When faced with facts, we must either warp our perception of reality in order not to deal with what is observably so, or we must admit that what we’re seeing is what we’re seeing and there is nothing else. It takes an immense amount of discipline and intellectual honesty to deal with the facts, but when we neglect to do so, even out of loyalty to ideals and those who once held them in common with us, our ability to deal with reality begins to drain away.

As a black man who likes to belong, fit in and stay liked, I had no business reading the DA’s manifesto, listening to their answers at political debates, or checking their track record. I especially had no business talking to Mark Steel three weeks ago. Because combined, these things left me in a corner where, having ranked the variables and factors in order of importance and priority, ensuring that the major issues were the major issues and the minor issues were not blown out of proportion or examined through magnifying lenses that turn molehills into mountains, I had no choice but to admit that the healthiest political decision I could make was to give the DA my vote. Complacency is a settled state wherein we agree to continue tolerating the same-old same-old. My encounter with the DA was unsettling, that is, it unsettled me from a place where I was complacent with the same-old same-old, because not only did it present the possibility of a better life, it also left me in that corner where our next logical step as a country was perfectly clear and simple. And I wasn’t supposed to admit it because I’m black and the DA is “white”.

This is not to say that the DA is a perfect party or has a corner on all truth and common sense. It’s that they’re aggressive about continuous
improvement and producing results. Many of the issues their critics seem to obsess with are issues that can be ironed out without withholding the vote from the DA or losing the benefits of a DA-run South Africa. The DA doesn’t necessarily take the routes prescribed by their critics, but the rhyme and reason behind the decisions they make resonates with the way I think and it seems very cognizant of the realities the party is faced with.

I was going to list the points that have made me decide to vote for the DA; large portions of that list were going to come from the conversation I had with Mark Steel and friends like Pierre Buckley. But there seems to be no way to do that without repeating what the DA has been saying about itself all along. If I must discuss those points, each of them will get its own blog post as a topic over the course of time.

It is safer to say, “I don’t know which party to vote for” than it is to say, “I’m convinced that this is an okay place to make my mark. I’ve heard varying arguments for this party, and they’re good. I’ve heard arguments against this party, and they don’t tip the scales that drastically. There are no real deal-breakers here. My conscience allows me to do this.” Because once you’ve placed those cards on the table – once you’ve stepped out of that closet and admitted that your blood is a certain colour, there is no taking that admission back. It’s a bridge
that may forever remain burned, a shot at popularity that may be lost in the dark. Relationships sour over lesser issues. Respect fades and favour falters.

But I believe in using my voice to change the world around me into one that works, and works well. So there you have it. These are the confessions of a black DA voter to whomever may be reading them.

This time around, my blood is blue.



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