November 12, 2008

Staying home

Last weekend was voter registration weekend in South Africa. Apparently, the idea is that there is one weekend in which everyone can register and then if you miss that, you can’t vote in next April’s national and provincial elections. There was a lot of publicity about the registration - all you needed to do was show up with your I.D.

I asked my friend Noxolo if she was going to register and she said she wasn’t. This wasn’t a good enough answer for me so I asked why and she kept saying she didn’t want to. I kept pressing her - how could someone not want to vote? - until she stopped, looked at me, and said, “I have lived in Itipini my entire life. I have voted before and nothing has changed. I still live here. Why should I vote now? It won’t change anything.”

The post-1994 dream depends on mass participation. If people begin to lose hope does that erode the entire democratic project?

Do you think any of the Israelites wandering in the Sinai ever felt like this?