While many South Africans are currently deliberating over which party to vote for in the upcoming elections, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that there is a growing number of people that will abstain.
While, often, the motive for abstention is apathy, there is, in fact, a movement seeking to promote abstention as an active political choice.
Known as Nope!, this collective, as it calls itself, refuses the logic of election politics because [it] refuses to accept that a small cross on a ballot can ever constitute democracy..."
Nope! was an "experiment in how to create nonbureaucratised, anti-authoritarian political space." The organisation promotes individual responsibility rather than "mediation [of responsibility] through professional politicians and bureaucrats".
The group was not against democracy, declared Nope! member Prishani Naidoo. Rather, the problem lay with South Africa's current electoral system which "foreclosed democracy".
Naidoo described the beginnings of Nope! as drawing from an Argentinian movement, established decades ago, in which people refused to vote as they felt that politicians had failed them.
The problem with the system in this country was that voting was seen as the only option for making a difference, Naidoo explained. People did not think about what could be achieved outside the parameters of the electoral structure.
Further, Naidoo contended that people needed to think beyond the vote, and focus on individual action and responsibility. "Voting has numbed us to recognising our abilities," she said.
Some members of Nope! would vote in the upcoming election, said Naidoo, but only to "spoil their ballots" by scribbling on it or putting a cross next to numerous parties, in order to show that their vote did not count. By doing this, Nope! would demonstrate its disdain for the electoral system and its participants.
"Our dreams don't fit on your ballots," was Nope!'s by-line. Naidoo said that the answer was not to "delegate" the achievement of these dreams to politicians. Nope! was a call to express oneself and one's dreams and make a personal contribution. It was a space for collective debate and encouraging lateral thinking.
"Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary feats when we find each other, and find the bravery to interrupt the status quo," boasted Nope! on its website.
Nope! was a reaction and an opposition to South Africa's political system, as well as a vote of no confidence in what political parties have to offer.