Columns 12.5.2014 12:09 pm

Travelling 10 000km to vote

Jennie Ridyard

Jennie Ridyard

I have done impulsive things in my time – midnight skinny dipping in an ocean during a tropical storm, throwing my acrophobic self off a bridge, moving continents to live with a man I’d never spent more than three weeks with before – but I think I have just outdone myself.

To my list of insanity I can now add that I flew across the world so that I could vote.

Yes, after writing last week’s column – about how I messed up by not re-registering as an overseas voter – I became increasingly outraged with myself.

Finally, on Monday, I went online to check if I was registered to vote anywhere at all and I was: in Benoni.

Why, that’s a mere 10 000km away; that’s just two flights, another continent and a different hemisphere from where I currently live. And voting started in less than 48 hours. 

In a fit of patriotism, I gathered up my family’s frequent flyer miles and booked myself on a plane the very next day.

Yes, I had work. Yes, I have children, dogs, a house, and a fella. Yes, I had to pay a pretty packet in airport taxes and fuel surcharges.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday I was on a last-minute flight to South Africa.

And on the bright morning of Wednesday’s voting day I landed at OR Tambo, bounding off the plane with a massive grin on my face.

“I came to vote,” I told the customs officer, handing him my identity book.

In my rush I’d even forgotten my South African passport, but no matter: I had the one document that mattered most on that day.

“I came to vote,” I told the IEC official, beaming.

And as I voted, I thought back over the 20 years since apartheid officially gasped its last poisonous breath.

I thought of all the millions of people who couldn’t vote for so many years, and perhaps, for the first time, this white girl from
Africa truly felt what desperation it is to be told you can’t vote, however much you may wish to.

And I thought again how precious this freedom is, how empowering to have a say in your country’s future, however small.

Now, as you read this, I will be packing to leave.

But I’ll be back. I’ll always be back for, wherever I am in this world, my heart belongs to the greatest country on Earth. 

 

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