If you have been following political conversations on talk radio and social media, you may have noticed a number of South Africans raising a particular concern about the upcoming elections.
If you haven't, you'd be forgiven to assume that these concerns are about the ANC's corruption, the DA's horrific timing, or the EFF's inappropriateness. And it is, but only to a certain extent.
What has really caught my ear with this election, is the number of potential voters exasperated with the choices available on the ballot.
Already scores of people are unsure about where they are going to make their mark on May 8. That is if they still decide to do so at all.
The reasons behind voters' complaints over SA's most important yet least anticipated general election relates to those mentioned earlier. While president Cyril Ramaphosa has certainly succeeded in creating a cleanup image, too many, apart from former president Jacob Zuma of course, are disillusioned about the ANC's empty promises, its corrupt core, and its incapable, incompetent and indifferent officials.
The DA meanwhile has not achieved much in its metros, especially those where it shares power. Its leaders come across as uninspiring and for some reason, the Blues make one wrong campaign decision after the next — be it from exploiting the deaths of mental healthcare patients for votes, or stooping to a technicality over election posters.
That leaves us with the last remaining party in the top three: the EFF. The red berets, led by the darlings of the media, have fallen out of favour with broadcasters and publishers and, although this is just a hunch, with a large portion of the public. In short, you should be worried if you are implicated in corruption scandals with the ANC, but don't yet have anything to show for your governing capabilities.
To make things worse, recent developments, specifically by the ANC including very questionable characters on its candidate list and the IEC rubber-stamping it, have only exacerbated the exasperation.
This has left many potential voters with somewhat of a conundrum and the possibility that no decision can sweeten the taste in their mouths when they eventually leave the voting booth.
What happens when the choices on the ballot are unconvincing? In the case of the US: Donald Trump. Polls showed that in 2016 voters were not encouraged by their options. The Pew Research Centre reported in September 2016 that voter satisfaction with their candidates were "already at a two-decade low" and "declined even further". Less that 40% of Republican and Democratic voters respectively said they were happy with the names they saw on the ballot paper.
Generally one could then expect some surprises in the upcoming vote. But SA's voting patterns fluctuate far less than that of the US, which sees power change hands often. Instead, there is a possibility that voting numbers may drop further or, at least, a rise in protest votes, i.e. spoiled ballots.
SA is still a young democracy. Coupled with the country's history, there remains an unwavering loyalty to the ANC, despite its dismal performance. This is mainly why many would rather waste a vote than support some opposition party.
This, however, is not the case for young voters. Those born after the revolution care little for the legacy of liberation. These voters not only lose faith in the leaders of the day but often tend to question the system itself.
How credible is a government elected into power by a minority? How representative is a parliament when the vast majority of registered voters failed to pitch up on election day?
These questions are perhaps still theoretical, but concerning nonetheless. Citizens are simply fed-up with politicians and parties who abuse the structures for their own personal gain at the expense of the majority.
So, in stead of abstention and boycott, consider using the existing system to effect change.
The DA often claims a vote for a smaller party is a wasted vote. And yes, the odds of a small party assuming office is as good as Zuma taking responsibility for the political crises of the last decade. And please don't for a minute think I am suggesting that the likes of Hlaudi Motsoeneng or Mzwanele Manyi can make this country better in any way.
But as obvious as this may sound, democratic elections are designed to give voters a chance to express themselves. Admittedly, the available options here are not mouth-watering either. Your vote however is not necessarily to see Bantu Holomisa in the Union Buildings. Rather, it is to encourage competition and friction among the political actors.
Once the incumbents realise they can no longer assume their majorities, a fire is lit at their rear ends. Realists would tell you that political players always act in their own interests. Perhaps a good electoral bashing is all that is needed to align their interests with ours.