By Wesley Seale
As we went to the polls in South Africa, my mind was on my grandparents. Both my grandfathers died before being endowed with the right to vote.
Fortunately, both my grandmothers lived to see the day where they could participate in deciding who should govern them.
Yet many citizens across the globe continue to be denied the right to participate in elections. For example, the Brennan Centre for Justice in the US reports that more than 11% of Americans, or 21 million eligible voters, do not have government-issued photo identification and are therefore disqualified from voting.
Thirty-six states in the US, that is, the majority, have forced their citizens to obtain these government-issued IDs and often, as the centre explains, people cannot obtain these IDs because of underlying costs.
Needless to mention, frequently the people who lack these IDs or who are discriminated against when receiving them, are minorities. Estimates by the centre suggest that nearly a quarter of African-Americans do not have these IDs, compared with only 8% of white citizens.
At the same time, the millions of residents in the US territories of Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa as well as Puerto Rico are barred, according to the US electoral college system, from voting in general elections.
While US elections always happen on a Tuesday, these are not declared public holidays and therefore workers often do not get the chance to vote. Taking this into account, it is strange that the US could criticise China for the so-called “continued erosion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including in political participation, in Hong Kong”.
The unexpected October 21 statement continues on the trajectory of US efforts to destabilise Hong Kong. It criticises Hong Kong law for allegedly disqualifying “scores of pro-democracy councillors”, as if there are councillors who are not pro-democracy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Even more so, the Biden administration plans a “Summit for Democracy” where it hopes to lecture the world in order to defend America’s democratic values which, according to the US government, are inseparable from advancing US national interests.
The December 9 to 10 summit will not look necessarily at the challenges faced by the US and its democracy, which is clearly in jeopardy, but rather seeks to point fingers at other countries and undermine domestic democratic processes there.
Reports suggest that while most SADC countries have been invited to the summit, Zimbabwe, eSwatini and Tanzania have been left out. US Foreign Affairs officials refuse to comment on how each country was selected for invitation to the summit. We can only read a divide and rule strategy being implemented by the US.
The US would do well to pay attention to fixing its own political system before attempting to lecture the rest of the world about democracy. As the saying goes, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The US governance system has been glaringly exposed by Trumpism and the January 6 uprising.
As South Africans were going to the polls on November 1, some Americans were recalling the 256th anniversary of the passing of the Stamp Act against the American Colonies in the British parliament in 1765. This tax led to the American Revolution and the independence of the colonies.
Just as the Americans were not satisfied with being colonies, they must know that the people of the world, especially the global south, will not tolerate their continuous interference in our domestic issues. Like them, we will rise and reject American imperialism as they, and my grandparents, rejected British colonialism.
By Wesley Seale