I’m firmly of the view that SA doesn’t need more political parties. Whenever I vote, the ballot paper reminds me of those cartoon gags, where a character prepares to read a list that unfurls to reveal it’s about a mile long. There are only a handful of serious contenders and most smaller parties are nothing more than bottom feeders, feasting on the crumbs that a seat or two on a council gets them. Unless, of course, a prospective coalition presents the opportunity to be kingmaker, and negotiate a larger slice of the pie.
But reading Natasha Marrian’s "It May be the Independents’ Day" (State of Play, September 30-October 6) made me think that more names on the ballot may not be a bad thing — if they’re the names of independent candidates.
The average person votes for a party, not a person. You make your mark next to a familiar group, but an unfamiliar candidate. It’s the party’s credentials that are in question, not those of the individual.
However, independent candidates, with no brand to rely on, are required to pursue meaningful engagement with communities to secure votes. Being free of political allegiance means they’re free of the red tape of intraparty politics. And they’re directly accountable to those who elected them, rather than the party hierarchy.
This is a simplification of the issue, but the principle is sound. In an era of voter apathy and disillusionment with party politics, independent candidates could be the breath of fresh air that SA politics needs.
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