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OPINION: Why I am underwhelmed & repelled by #Elections2016

It is time for another trip to the voting booth. For years I have looked forward to vote, however this is the most depressing election for me. I am underwhelmed.

I have been utterly repelled by the mendacity and demagoguery and the buffoonery of thugs who are killing candidates.

So as we draw closer to August 3rd, my heart sinks. Sometimes I feel so disenchanted with politics and politicians, I am considering skipping this election. Fortunately whenever that thought occupies my mind, I remind myself that by not voting, I am essentially shifting accountability to others. I consider the difference my vote can make. A voice reminds me to take an active interest in my country's governance.

For years I have always bored friends with my opinionated political views verbally and in my writing. For the first time I don't know who and which party I am going to vote for.

How did I come to this point? I grew up in Katlehong, a township ravaged by apartheid rule, a township which together with Vosloorus and Thokoza suffered the most from apartheid brutalities and killings.

For as long as I can remember, my Sunday lunchtimes consisted of nibbling a sandwich while I listened to banned political writings and politics naturally played a big part in our family life.

So the township I grew up in and my job as a journalist rubbed off on me. As a journalist I was passionately involved in exposing the apartheid injustices across the country, from the nominally independent homelands, to strife-torn townships from Soweto, Langa, Alexandra, Mamelodi, KwaMashu, Richmond and as far flung as Upington. I grew up believing we could all fight injustice in this world and change it.

What's gone wrong? What has happened to the idealistic and politically passionate teenager, journalist, and communication practitioner that was me? Is it I who has changed - or the politics?

Maybe we are all to blame in some way. Our society is obsessed with the ephemera of celebrity, lifestyle, particularly the politics of the stomach. Politics is becoming less of a civic duty. It is becoming a job, feeding the stomach. That's why I, like so many of my generation, feel uninspired, often apathetic and, yes, bored by the whole thing.

One of the problems is that none of today's career politicians actually inspire. I can't think of a single politician, now, who would put their head over the parapet for something they truly believed in.

Perhaps that is the price politicians now pay for power - you have to toe the line, keep in with the party machinery, even if your heart and soul are screaming 'No!'

And what price do we, the people, pay? An election full of empty promises and childish backbiting. No wonder I am disillusioned, underwhelmed and repelled by the upcoming election. The culture that turned politics into a cheap popularity contest and politics of the stomach, is failing us.

We need to stop caring about what politicians are saying about their parties and themselves and start worrying about what they are saying about us the voters. They, in turn, need to convince us they're worth listening to and voting for. Forget the empty publicity stunts; let's have mature adults we can respect, whether we agree with them or not.

I know that cynicism about politicians and their parties exists everywhere and anywhere in the world, but it is more pronounced where there is no structural connection between politicians and voters like here in our Rainbow Nation.

If ever the evil of our proportional representation (PR) electoral system needed to be demonstrated, it is now. We need a new electoral system. The alternative is a continuing downward spiral of political instability, economic incoherence and public alienation as we see now.

Unless we have a new electoral system, sooner or later our democracy will become irrelevant. Our democracy will become a democracy for the few, or for party hacks.

So will I vote on August 3rd? I think of my job as a reporter, journalist and foreign correspondent and those brave men and women, the suffragettes, who protested, died and suffered so that I can exercise my vote.

Hey. Daily news from around the world reminds us of the enormous sacrifices people are making to bring democracy to their communities. Grassroots democracy really matters because the issues closest to home matter.

I believe local councils are better placed to tackle local challenges and opportunities. So I was encouraged that more people put themselves forward as candidates for a seat on councils. I know there are important local issues for people living in these communities.

I know many people living in our suburbs, townships and villages understand that at the heart of national policy is a power shift to local residents, enabling them to shape and protect the places where they live. I am pleased they are taking up the challenge of seizing this opportunity.

If there is one defining characteristic of the changes that we see in our country and the world, it is the shift in power toward the citizen. What is less evident but equally significant is the fundamental deepening of our democracy that has been brought about through the empowerment of local institutions, broader civil society action and a policy of inclusive growth.

As for me, I am determined to never stand mute again when I hear someone give a lame excuse for not voting. I will speak out and share my opinion with others. After all, by voting in every election, I am protecting my right to do just that. To vote is to participate in creating authority.

I will never understand why people do not take the opportunity to voice their opinion. They may claim that their one vote doesn't make a difference, but if only they would realize it makes a world of difference. Your vote is your voice. If you do not vote, then your voice will never be heard.

As far as I can tell, the only reason why political parties exist is to get elected. They all seem to lack a mission or even an agenda. In this election they seem to make up policies on the hop. Probably the only issue that concerns the political class is the fear that their legitimacy will be eroded.

So, am I going to vote? The answer is, Yes, for the sake of exercising my democratic right - not, sadly, because I am convinced by any party.

But who will I vote for? That's between the ballot box and me! Pity for the first time I will make that decision when I enter the booth.

Rich Mkhondo, a former journalist and foreign correspondent, now runs The Media and Writers Firm, a reputation management and content management hub.

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