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Freedom of Choice

 article about government
It was a dark and windy night when Jabu was visited by the political campaigners. The wind howled around the tin shack that he had built here on some white supremacists farm five years ago. All whites were supremacists. All whites were rich. He knew this was true because (despite the fact that he had seen things to the contrary on the television down at his local shebeen) his local government representative had told him so. Personally. So he and thirty or forty people had made themselves shacks here on the white supremacists farm while they waited for the houses that the government had promised them.

 

There was a knock on his door, which promptly fell off of its makeshift hinges. Outside, four men stood waiting. Come in Jabu said, more of a formality that a necessity. The men, all wearing T-shirts emblazoned with political slogans, shuffled inside, making the already cramped interior of the shack seem even more claustrophobic. Good evening Jabu, one of them said. Jabu recognized him. It was one of the men that worked for the local government official. In fact, he knew a great many people that worked for the local government official, purely because a great number of people did, in fact, work for the local government official. He wasnt sure what exactly it was that the man did (and neither did the man, for that matter) but Jabu knew that the man would have his best interests at heart. He did, after all, work for the local government official.

 

How are you this evening, Jabu? the man asked.

 

Its cold, mister, Jabu stated.

 

Yes, it is. But you have a nice paraffin heater

 

Yes. It is nice.

 

And just think, Jabu, when the elections are over, the government will build you a beautiful new house.

 

Oh, yes, that would be very nice.

 

Jabu had, of course, seen the progress of the low cost housing being built for people just like him on the TV down at the local shebeen. It had been an interesting report. He hadnt been able to hear all that much, of course, because the crowd had been its typical rowdy self that night. So, although he wasnt too sure what was being said in the report, he knew that the houses were being built. He even thought that the weeds growing up through the concrete of the interior floor were quite a nice touch. He wondered at the time how long it might still take before he could move into a house just like that, and if the weeds would need much watering. Then he got drunk.

 

The party needs your vote, the man who worked for the local government official said, rudely pulling Jabu back from his mental ramblings.

 

Will my vote really make a difference? Jabu asked, as he was still a little mystified by the whole electoral process. He had voted before, of course, dutifully drawing his cross next to the face of the man he had been told to vote into office. He had to rely on the picture of the man, because the previous governmental structure had, during his schooling, neglected to make sure that he could actually read properly when he left school.

 

Oh yes, Jabu, the man said with great certainty. Your vote is vital to us winning the election. Every vote we black people cast makes sure that the whites will not get back into power. Do you know what will happen when the whites get back into power, Jabu?

 

No

 

The man regarded him very seriously. Apartheid, was all he said.

 

Jabu remembered Apartheid well. It had been an awful time to live, at least for a black man. The whites had wonderful parties, he had been told, in their rich man houses, while the blacks toiled in their gardens and cleaned their kitchens. It was a terrible time, when education wasnt even in his own language. He remembered that he had been given a book to read once, at school. He was told that it was called Animal Farm, but his reading wasnt very good, so he never got round to reading it. A good thing too he had had enough of the white mans propaganda. It was just a matter of time before they would all live in those rich mans houses. Or, for that matter, in a low cost housing project, as promised by the new government. Then there would be no more propaganda just equality.

 

Jabu shivered, and turned the paraffin heater up.

 

You know that I will vote for the party, mister, Jabu stated.

 

That is good, Jabu. Because the party has provided for its supporters, hasnt it?

 

Oh, yes, it certainly has.

 

Jabu had witnessed the provisions the party made for its members on the TV down at the shebeen. The president had a nice private jet, for example, and the cabinet ministers all had wonderful luxury cars some even had drivers. They had beautiful houses, where they spent their time relaxing between all those difficult governmental duties. He knew that the duties must be difficult, because they seemed to spend a lot of time relaxing. He had even seen the interior of one of those houses there on the TV. It had been beautiful, with many rooms, new furniture, even a library. He wondered if one of the books in that library was Animal Farm. Surely not a childrens book could have no bearing on the important political workings that these great men and women performed. Soon he too would have a beautiful home of his own

 

The men were about to leave, when a thought occurred to Jabu.

 

Mister, he said to the man who worked for the local government official, what would happen if I voted for someone else?

 

The man stopped in the doorway and turned around.

 

Well, Jabu, he said earnestly, we have a wonderful democracy in this country now. You are free to vote for anyone on the ballot paper. We have true freedom.

 

Jabu nodded, satisfied with the answer. The man wasnt finished speaking, however.

 

But if you vote for someone other than our party, Jabu, he stated, we will be forced to burn your shack down. And beat you.

 

Jabu nodded again. It seemed fair. After all, he did get to vote.

 

The men left, the last one replacing the broken door, and Jabu returned to his milk crate that served as a chair. The party would win again, of course, because of the loyalty of its followers. It was a certainty. And when they started their third successive term in office, he knew that it wouldnt be long before they finished building his new house, complete with weeds and all.

 



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