First Published in City Press November 2013

When I was in my early teens, I, just as most of the urban youngsters I knew, caught the basketball craze.

Maybe it was the hip-hop music we loved or the stellar ambassadorship of Michael Jordan, or maybe Nike just did it, but either way, wherever you went in my Hillbrow surrounds, ‘young cats were playing ball’.

The world was quickly split into those who could ball well and those who should go and buy themselves a basketball.

If you were good at the game, you didn’t have come with anything to the courts, you could even leave your sneakers at home – someone would provide just for the honour of having you on their team.

But if you weren’t so good the only thing you could hope for was someone’s favour, someone’s misfortune in spraining their ankle, or everyone needing to use your ball – then you could play.

Overnight, terrible players found themselves in the company of great players. And glory.

And so they were usually very mouthy. One day such a bad loud-mouthed player wasn’t getting the passes and defensive support he’d hoped for. And so he walked off the court. With his ball in tow. Game over.

We all called him spoiled. But not to his face. When he came back a few days later, there were many more balls on the court, brought by players worse than he ever was. They got game time, he just got aloof glances. And a tag. He hadn’t just lost his cool the previous week, he also lost our respect.

My mind rushed to this chap when a few weeks ago I read an article by a writer I’m always excited to hear from.

In a compelling read T. O. Molefe implores us to “Spoil” our votes, because our politics are about whose voice count more than anyone else, and because business interests lobby to influence government decisions.

While I agree that not all is well in our state, I can’t help feel that Molefe, and many of us who similarly feel disillusioned have the wrong idea. Just like the spoiled basketball player who stalked off with his ball, stalking off with your vote isn’t going to change the rules of the game.

The rules of course are changed by the players – through consensus. The strong players, the ones knowledgeable of the rules, the referees, and of course those who hold the ball – they each have different opportunity to influence how we play the game each day, but for each its not an absolute power.

South Africa, as JP Landmarks writes in his latest book, is once such place where all the rules are up for changing. That’s what makes our politics so hectic. And exciting.

But if you’re really hoping that there political dynamics of South Africa change, then you’re going to have to get stuck in. And do it yourself.

I found it ironic this week how many young ladies were cheesed off after hearing that the Women’s League president doesn’t think any of our roughly 13 million adult women worthy of becoming State President. Ironic in that many of these young ladies wouldn’t dare join the WL’s because of that darn ugly uniform.

They don’t realize not only can they change the discourse, and start to promote forerunners for a lady president in SA, they can most certainly change the uniform as well. All they need do is decide to get into the game. Learn the rules. Play hard.

You don’t have to agree with the politics of the day, but if you’d not getting stuck in, then you’re really not having a say.

It’s time for the underlying myth that we are powerless to be expunged, as well as the myth that we can just have it easy, vote and someone will do it all for us. That time is over.

Your political power is up for grabs… but you’ve got to get into the game. Foul or not.

Update: Nov 22, 2014. Today as I leave for my 2nd day of my last National Task Team meeting before the NTT is dissolved when the ANC Youth League goes to congress, I am reminded how my 18 months in office have reinforced this simple truism – you can’t have a say if you don’t play.

I hope you the reader finds the courage and resolve to also get politically active. As January Makamba, Tanzanian presidential hopeful explained a few weeks ago, Until we are in a state of predictable political stability, politics is too important to just leave for a few.

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