A Facebook post about a woman’s frustration with the challenges in her community and how she plans to spoil her ballot on Wednesday August 3, has led to an outpouring of support.
Judith Kennedy, a member of the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF), ended her post with #IAmSpoilingMyBallotWithMyBlood. Ms Kennedy made it clear that she was posting in her individual capacity, and not that of her organisation.
Within minutes of her post, on Wednesday July 13, many people from Bonteheuwel said they would support this cause, as a means of a silent protest, with many ending their comments with the hashtag.
Some asked whether they would be permitted to bring a knife to the voting station to cut their finger for some blood.
The Athlone News asked Ms Kennedy if she literally plans to spoil her ballot with her blood.
“The emphasis is on spoiling your ballot,” she said.
Ms Kennedy said: “Whether you decide to do that with red food colouring or making a whole lot of crosses. I’m not saying people must spoil their ballot. The idea around the hashtag, is to say that we are ‘gatvol’. We have tried to engage with the authorities, to no avail. I don’t know what the impact of this hashtag will be.”
Many residents also said they would support Ms Kennedy if she would run for ward councillor, but she does not believe that is the answer to the area’s problems.
“I am not promoting any political party. Me becoming a councillor will not change the system. A lot of people went into it with good intentions, but were swallowed up in the system. If I thought that was a solution, I would have done that. But this is not about an individual. This is a systematic problem,” Ms Kennedy said.
There were also talks on the Official Bonteheuwel Page on Facebook, which stated that “the validity of the election may be questioned if there are an unusually high proportion of spoilt votes”.
According to provincial Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) spokesperson, Courtney Sampson, one percent of spoilt votes at an election, is considered the norm, and 1.5 percent of spoilt votes would be considered high.
He cautioned, however, that this does not mean the election would be deemed invalid.
Said Mr Sampson: “The outcome of the election won’t be affected by it. The voter percentage does not affect the validity of the election.”
He explained a spoilt ballot is when it caanot be determined who the person wanted to vote for.
“Some people say they spoil their vote as a way of protest. They want to show their level of frustration, but even if the spoiled votes outnumber the other votes, a ward councillor will still be chosen, based on the valid votes,” Mr Sampson added.
In the last local government election in 2011, a total of 20 034 people voted in Bonteheuwel’s Ward 50, with a total of 225 spoilt votes. This is the one percent norm of spoilt votes.
In a media release, the JPF stated: “We are way beyond gatvol.
“Too many innocent people are shot, maimed, injured, killed; children and the elderly are traumatised while national and provincial SAPS tells us there are no resources.
“What does this mean to us? We live in fear and behind bars. Freedom is certainly not free in Bonteheuwel. Residents are held hostage by ruthless gangsters and drug lords and government says: ‘NO DARN RESOURCES!!!’
“When and where will this end?
“When will the authorities acknowledge their failure to provide for and implement a plan to support and save the people of the Cape Flats? Have we become the forgotten people? Or are we just the expendables? Soon to be used as political fodder for those who will come to bring the jam and empty promises to buy our votes?
“Where will our help come from? Certainly not from elected councillors who try to placate us with new pavements in election time and upgrading of outside toilets, and; for the rest just don’t bother to show up. And, when anything – like the killings happen in the area, they are nowhere to be found and just shuts up?
“The JPF has a very clear position of understanding that the issues we face (are) of a highly political nature however we do not entertain party politics therefore we do not support or encourage any candidate or political party.
“It is your democratic right to vote, not to vote or to spoil your ballot.
“We encourage all those who will vote, to do so wisely.”