16 avril 2004
The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) - a national movement of poor and landless people struggling for land and agrarian reform - has emerged from it’s No Land ! No Vote ! Campaign victorious as nearly half of the country’s eligible voters heeded the call of the LPM and other social movements to boycott the polls in protest over the failure of our country’s neo-liberal land reform and macroeconomic strategy.
By 12:30 pm today, 16 April, with almost 100% of votes counted, the voting participation statistics produced by the Independent Electoral Commission revealed that the strongest single "voting" bloc in the country was the non-vote, with an astounding 45.56% of the country’s eligible voters electing not to vote in a clear and growing majority of South African’s who do not believe that voting will change their lives.
The LPM does not understand how the IEC can claim a 76.73% poll, when the IEC’s own figures claim that 20,674,926 people registered to vote, yet the votes it has tallied show that only 14,926,776 people have voted. By our calculations, this shows that only 72.19% of the registered voters have actually voted. A full 5,748,150 people, marking 27.80 % of registered voters, elected not to vote at all, putting paid to earlier IEC propaganda that 99% would vote.
In addition to this, it is critical to note that a full 24.6% of eligible voters did not even register to vote. According to the government’s own latest census, Census 2001, at least 27,420,457 South African’s aged 18 and over were eligible to vote in 2001, even ignoring our country’s estimated 2% annual population growth, which amounts to 6% over the years since the last Census was taken. Yet, according to the IEC, only 20,674,926 people, or 75.4% of eligible voters, registered to vote. In contrast, the ruling African National Congress, which gained a whopping, though predictable, 69.66% of the vote, will govern the country for the next five years with a mandate from only 10,233,056 people, or 37.3% of eligible voters.
The combined significance of this outcome - in which 1 in 4 eligible voters chose not to register, and then almost 1 in 3 registered voters chose not to vote - is scandalous to the ruling class propaganda that celebrates these polls as a victory for our hard-won 10-year-old democracy ! The shocking truth of the matter is that a full 12, 493,681 people, or 45.56% - nearly half - of the eligible voters chose not to vote at all. This is almost as bad as the United Snakes, where the distance between political parties and the people has resulted in a long-running sham "democracy" in which half of the population regularly does not participate in the process of elections. It is an even more significant indictment of the kind of elite-based "ballot box" democracy that has emerged in South Africa in place of the people’s democracy for which millions of our people all fought and struggled until 1994.
The LPM does not pretend that all of these election boycotters were heeding our movement’s No Land ! No Vote ! call, but we do know that millions of these non-voters are among the 26-million poor and landless rural and urban South Africans whose lives have not changed in the past 10 years due the government’s mindless insistence on continuing with a failed World Bank "willing seller-willing buyer" land reform programme. A country that cannot return stolen land to its people has not completed the most basic foundation of liberation and democratic transformation, and the transfer of less than 3% of land from 60,000 white farmers to 26-million poor and black landless people in 10 years is nothing short of failure.
Adding fuel to the fire of growing popular frustration with the notion that the only significant requirement of a functioning democracy is that everyone gets a chance to stand in a queue every five years in a ritualized legitimation of policies that do not change their lives, are the facts that more people have been evicted from farms, forcibly removed from informal settlements, evicted from council housing, subjected to water and electricity disconnections, and forced into structural unemployment over the past 10 years than have benefited from delivery of land, houses, water, electricity, jobs or other basic human needs.
The overwhelming numbers of eligible voters choosing not to vote demonstrates clearly that most people making this choice are black South Africans, and that the white right-wing anti-constitutional election boycotts - reflecting an insignificant action by an insignificant population group - have little if anything to do with this phenomena. The vast majority of those choosing not to vote have chosen this path either in response to organized social movement protests, lead by the LPM’s clear No Land ! No Vote ! call, as well as the No Houses ! No Vote !, No Water ! No Vote ! No Electricity ! No Vote ! No Jobs ! No Vote ! calls and ethos emanating from other social movements, or in natural individual rejection of the ritual of ballot-box democracy by poor and landless people who know that voting has not changed their lives in the past decade.
The LPM is deeply concerned about the health and welfare of our hard-won democracy. The fact that 45.56% of people did not vote is deeply significant. The fact that this outcome has been barely mentioned in the election reports of the mass media is also deeply significant and reflective of the class and political role played by mass media organisations in uncritically reporting the propaganda of the state and ruling classes, which focuses only on the choice of those who vote, and completely ignores the significant voice of those who don’t.
Now that the dust has begun to settle around the elections, the LPM urges all South Africans who care about the shape and content of our democracy to begin to look deeply and critically at the questions being raised by 12.5-million people across our beloved land. As the LPM, we have been and will continue to do so as we move forward on our campaigns undeterred by arrests and other forms of repression of our democratic rights.
ISSUED BY : The Landless People’s Movement on 16 April, 2004
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