Voting does not translate into meaningful participation. It is a replication of the undemocratic structures of private business in the economy. If you merely vote once every five years you have no meaningful control over decision making, nor do you participate in it. The only way to become politically active and educated about politics is to participate in the decisions that affect your life. If you are just a voter you are in no position to prevent the political oligarchies that arise, which is exactly what has happened in South Africa since 1994.
The reason why we have so many service delivery protests is exactly because there is no political, economic or social space for active participatory democracy outside of communities. The very political parties that ‘represented our liberation struggle, while we ourselves actually liberated ourselves through participating in making Apartheid ungovernable, have become exclusive and excluding oligarchies and controlling hierarchies making participatory democracy impossible. The leadership of the ANC controls the financial and communication resources not only of the party but also of the state (see the case of the Finance Minister this week) in bidding for personal power, rather than to ensure popular involvement and participation.
Thus we as citizens in the current representative system are faced with steamroller political vote collection machines over which we as citizens have no control and become alienated from the political process. We become demobilised. The political parties have become vote harvesters, harvesting our passive votes every five years. The ANC has deliberately promoted tribalism which it was sold in the negotiation process in the run up to the 1994 elections. Our current reality is but a streamlined system of Apartheid Tribal Bantustans.