Will my vote make a difference?

Elections are here. You can judge this by the way tensions are flaring up like a bad rash.

Exuberant promises of a Utopia filled to the brim with new job opportunities, service delivery and housing have ceased as politicians cast their votes at polling stations all over the country.

Heck, even President Jacob Zuma started to regain his sense of humour by joking with news outlets and distancing himself from the Nkandla saga. While Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille swayed her hips back and forth in an attempt at swaying votes.

But, behind the joyous happenings that are taking place today, people are dying.

This realisation came to me like a punch in the gut - you can see it coming but you can't get away from the blow.

It was emphasised when I came home to Hanover Park yesterday, only to find a dead man casually left on Ryston Road's concrete. He had been shot in the neck and left for dead in what residents are labelling as a gang-related murder.

Crowds of on-lookers had, of course, gathered around. Police sirens were wailing, as if they were mourning the man. Children, who were among the spectators, ran to the police vehicle as if seeing a police officer was more interesting than the corpse in front of their homes.

I distinctly remember standing on the sidewalk observing my neighbours as I tried to find something within me that cared about the wasted life, but I couldn't locate my feelings of empathy or sympathy.

Did this make me a bad person? No. I don't think so.

What it makes me is a desensitised product of a society immersed in gang violence, poverty and crime; like so many other environments out there in need of serious intervention.

You see, I grew up in these gang-tagged streets so an incident like this is not new to me. In fact, the skeletal-faced youngsters sucking on a broken bottle neck underneath my bedroom window are the kids I grew up with.

Walking onto a crime scene is no rare occasion either. I have been caught in the crossfire on numerous occasions as I walked to school to write my final matric exams and as I travelled to university.

Either way, I can't help but wonder if the death of a young man before election day is a bittersweet reminder of how desperate situations can become in places such as the Cape Flats. Could it be viewed as a metaphor for the dead idealism implemented by our great democratic leaders of yesteryear who sacrificed their own lives with pure intentions, only to see them tarnished by scandal-after-fire-pool-scandal?

I am not expecting the government to part the red sea of criminal offences to lead its people to safer grounds. I also know that placing unrealistic expectations on a young government is setting my hopes up for disappointment. However, in the same breath, this is not the South Africa I would want to introduce to any of my offspring.

Their innocence would too soon be stripped away by the environment they live in. Emotional detachment would be the only possible way of coping.

So my question is simple: Can my vote really make a difference when all I know is my reality at this time and at this place?

Gadeeja Abbas is an EWN online producer in Cape Town.