Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Voting Day

Today is voting day. For the last few weeks there has been much fuss made about what its outcome will be, although it is of little doubt given that Dr. Mandela has now so publically lent his support to the ruling African National Congress party (ANC). This is troubling. Not so much for the party as for the man who will run the country should they win. Unfortunately, many people will vote for the ANC not because of what it and Jacob Zuma stand for, but rather based on the fact that they see the ANC as the party that brought Democracy to South Africa. Such politics do not bode well for the history of this country. As my housemate so concisely put it – the ANC of 1994 would never have wanted the ANC of 2009.

Similarly to other countries where issues around race are forever part of the landscape, people here tend to continue to vote along racial lines. In a conversation with one of my friends who is coloured, she told me that she has spoken with friends of hers who despite being educated and for the most part politically aware, refuse to vote for the Democratic Alliance (internet poll-elected ‘Mayor of the World’ Helen Zille – the current mayor of Cape Town who after today will either be Premier of the Western Cape or a member of the Provincial Legislature), is a DA party member and this part of the Western Cape is the only part of the country where the Democratic Alliance has any significant presence). My friend went on to say that she would indeed cast her ballot for the DA as her vote was based on service delivery rather than the historical race issues surrounding the various parties. As with those who will vote for the ANC for what significance it holds for them in history, for many the DA still to this day represents the white man.

Regardless of the outcome, today and every voting day since 1994 is a huge day in this country, having been declared a public holiday in order to give everyone ample chance to vote. People have come out in droves to exercise their democratic right today, with some polling stations taking hours to enter due to overwhelming voter turnout and lines of people rounding city blocks.

In spite of this significance, one cannot help but feel concerned (frightened?) at the very real likelihood that tomorrow this nation will wake up to find that their new leader is an accused (although later acquitted amidst great controversy) rapist who has hundreds of corruption and fraud charges brought against him* and whose very public and widely publicized HIV prevention method involves showering after unprotected sex.



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