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OPINION: Muslims need to vote practically in the 2024 elections

by Zahid Jadwat

The South African electorate, particularly Muslims, will have to make practical choices at the ballot box next year. Splitting the vote might be the only viable option right now. 


This was never supposed to have had anything to do with religion, but here we are. Over the past few weeks, we have watched a world in turmoil: rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism; a constant barrage of deadly attacks on a sovereign territory that has claimed 15 000 lives. The spillage of blood can never be justified.

The effects of Israel’s brutal war on Gaza have reverberated the world over. In South Africa, a multiparty democracy on the verge of its most important election since 1994, the political scene is not immune to this.

The citizens of this country have been tested. Our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Palestine, and with peace-loving Jews and Israelis, has proven that as South Africans we understand what it means to be oppressed. We are not prepared to witness genocide and remain silent.

In the aftermath of Operation Al Aqsa flood, political parties rushed to weigh in on the situation. Ignore the virtue signalling for a moment; for them, this was never about standing up for human rights nor was it about being on the right side of history. It has always been — and shall remain — about preserving the support base.

The African National Congress (ANC) jumped at the opportunity to appear so just, so sincere. There are at least two things you can count on the ANC to deliver: corruption and lip service support for Palestine. The Democratic Alliance (DA), part of the Multi-Party Charter (MPC) coalition agreement, has been vilified for its apparent Zionist sentiment.

But what about the Muslims among the electorate, who are fed up with decades of ANC ineptitude but are morally compelled to support the cause for justice in Palestine? We find ourselves between our duty to punish a party that has lost touch with our needs as a country (with deadly results) and our moral duty to rebuke ostensible panderers of genocide.


SMread: For the record, the situation in Palestine didn’t start in October


What are the choices?

The ruling party has failed South Africa. This is something we will have to come to terms with as we prepare to cast our votes in 2024. The most credible alternative to ANC corruption at this point might be a party with distasteful foreign policy, but they espouse the very classical liberal values many Muslims (Indians especially) agree with without realising it. Yes, if you believe in a free market, non negotiable civil liberties under the rule of law, limited government, economic freedom, political freedom and freedom of speech , you are a classical liberal. The bitter pill to swallow is that the MPC is our last option to avert serious domestic doom.

I recently read an article by Dr Faisal Suleman, in which he cautions about what could happen should a DA-led coalition government take charge of the Union Buildings under the MPC. “If you don’t vote correctly next year, the Zionists will surely rule SA!” was the title.

In his analysis, Suleman made three key observations about a potential DA-led coalition government: “There will be a 100% reversal of our present foreign policy towards Palestine, support for the “war on terror” in its different forms and increased Islamophobia”.

A tad exaggerated, it went on to caution voters against allowing a DA-led coalition government in power under the MPC agreement. It predicted a Zionist-aligned foreign policy that will crush the vibrant pro-Palestine movement in SA; that there will be increased trade between the two countries and Israeli spyware will be imported to surveil citizens.

Without dismissing the possibility of any of the above, one must critically assess the situation. We should not be led to believe an ANC government is any less friendly with Israel than it actually is. We should not be hoodwinked to believe that a vote for the ANC is a vote for a free Palestine, either. 


Guess what? The truth is that there is no decent choice. The ANC-led government, currently being praised for its stance, has for nearly 30 years dragged its feet on the matter of diplomatic ties with apartheid Israel. Even after calling out apartheid Israel’s atrocities, an embassy of the State of Israel still stands in Pretoria.

Not only this, but cultural and trade ties have continued unhindered; even strengthened under their watch. Trade between the countries have flourished under an ANC-led government — from $387.8 million in 1992 to $706.4 million in 2000. It reached a staggering $1.03 billion in 2010. Although there was a subsequent decline, it still continues. Treaties were signed. Trade continues. El Al’s planes still take off from the runways of OR Tambo International Airport.

On the issue of spying on citizens, let’s not forget several reports of the ANC-led government’s attempts to spy on citizens. Earlier this year, police minister Bheki Cele admitted in Parliament that the South African Police Service (SAPS) purchased spy equipment — known as “grabbers” — without obtaining the necessary exemption certificate.

Even if a DA-led coalition was to make any such attempts (such as clamping down on the pro-Palestine movement), I am confident they will not get too far supposing we have a robust civil society and an independent judiciary — both which are being increasingly undermined by this ANC government and which cannot be guaranteed if we keep them in power.


SMread: Can the ANC retain power in 2024?


Split your vote

For us Muslim classical liberals , there is an option. Look beyond the supposed binary choice between Palestine and Zionism: split your vote. The real choice here, if any, is between corruption and an inadequate foreign policy position.
We may have been led to believe that we have to choose between sympathy with a just cause and support for genocide. That shouldn’t be.

Fortunately, we can prioritise local issues without compromising our support for the people of Palestine, Muslims and Christians in urgent need of solidarity. This can be done by splitting the vote. At a municipal and provincial level, we may vote in a DA-led coalition (one that is far more likely to arrest the decline of our cities and towns). At a national level, we keep the ANC in the majority. In this way, we signal to the ANC that their reign of impunity will be met with punishment at the polls, while letting the parties of the MPC know that we are not prepared to elect parties to the Executive whose foreign policy might be better rectified. We achieve better local outcomes and protect our solidarity with those oppressed abroad.

Our hearts bleed for the thousands of Palestinian children killed; so too should they bleed for the children who starve to death and those who fall in pit latrines in this country. Our hearts bleed for the people who have been displaced in Gaza; so do they bleed for those living under hazardous conditions in informal settlements on the fringes of our crumbling cities.

If the ANC has proven time and again that they cannot look after the basic needs of our citizens, can we be confident in the bona fides of their stated support for Palestine?

Tough, sober-minded choices will have to be made. Thankfully, we live in a multiparty democracy that allows us to punish parties if they act against our interests (if only we harnessed the power!). Take charge of the situation.

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