South Africa's Proud Moment is Bitter Too

Something funny happened to me yesterday. After I cast my vote in South Africa's fourth democratic election since 1994, I hosted a lunch at my house. For the first time in the 15 years since blacks had won the right to vote, not a single person at my table had voted for the party of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress.

Instead, the former activists - some of whom had lost relatives in the struggle against apartheid - had decided that they would give their vote to one of the 25 other parties.

Despite this overwhelming show of no confidence in the ANC, however, not a single person at the table had any doubt that the party would win a comfortable majority and possibly a two-thirds majority.

"That is the mistake that the opposition parties have made in this election. They all talk to the middle classes, like us, instead of the large majority of this country: the man and woman in the rural areas," said one of my guests.

Then they all looked into their wine glasses and slumped into a depression.

For the first time since 1994, many South Africans went into the election not as the proud Rainbow Nation that Mandela ushered in. Instead, many feel as though they are in a cliched movie about yet another postcolonial African state that has lost its way.

In the past three months, the ruling ANC has finalised legislation disbanding the country's most successful crime-fighting unit, the Scorpions. This is the same unit that investigated Jacob Zuma, president of the ANC and the man who will be installed as the country's president, for corruption, tax evasion, fraud and racketeering.

Three weeks ago charges against Zuma were dropped by the head of the National Prosecuting Authority after he found that supporters of Zuma's predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, had influenced the investigation of Zuma.

In the past three months, the ANC has cemented its reputation for siding with regimes that do not care about human rights by banning the Dalai Lama from attending a peace conference - at the invitation of fellow Nobel laureates Mandela, FW de Klerk and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This follows the state's consistent alliances with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Sudan's Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and Burma's military regime.

But many worry even more about Zuma. This is a man who has said he believed a shower after sex with an HIV-positive woman would stop him contracting the virus. All these concerns are heightened by his lack of substance on policy issues. He has twice called for a referendum on the death penalty, for example, while other ANC officials have sneered that the party would campaign against such an idea.

Thus yesterday's vote was at once a proud moment in South Africa's young democracy (at the time of writing 80% of the 23 million voters were expected to turn up) and a bitter one too. The party of liberation, the ANC, had lost its shine. We are just another country now, with ominous clouds gathering.

"Yes, democracy means making choices," Tutu said after voting yesterday. "For many people, it's no longer a foregone thing [to vote for the ANC] because of the role that the ANC has played in the struggle and in the first years of our freedom. Most people would have tended to vote ANC. Now, it's no longer quite so straightforward. People are asking questions, which is a good thing. That is what democracy is."

Democracy is also the fact that Zuma will win on the hopes of millions of poor South Africans who believe in his many promises on jobs, social security and healthcare. It is a reality that many at my lunch table yesterday acknowledge. But we lie awake at night now.

"ยข Justice Malala is a political analyst in Johannesburg

Your IP address will be logged

Zuma poised to become president

Ruling ANC confident of an 'overwhelming' victory as party takes strong lead in South African polls

Voting as it happened

Desmond Tutu casts 'heart-searching' vote

Comment: Slim pickings in South African poll

Gallery: South Africa election day

Your IP address will be logged

Loading 0% complete

Loading comments...

Go to all comments on one page

In order to post a comment you need to be registered and signed in.

Register | Sign in

Go to all comments on one page

In order to post a comment you need to be registered and signed in.

Register | Sign in

In order to see comments, please turn JavaScript on in your browser.

Sorry, commenting is not available at this time. Please try again later.

Apologies, something has gone wrong and this action cannot be completed. Please try again later.

${comment.PostedAtTime|formatDateTime:MessageTime}

${comment.PostedAtTime|formatDateTime:MessageTime}

You have  characters left

Please read our community standards.

Loading...............

Closing this window without pressing "Post your comment" will result in your words being lost. Are you sure?

Thank you for your comment. This has been submitted for moderation.

Your comment has been successfully posted.

Sorry, something has gone wrong and this action cannot be completed. Please try again later.

Close

Please choose a problem:

Comment: (optional)

You have 5000 characters left

Logged in as

Your email address: (optional)

Loading...............

Closing this window without pressing "Report" will result in your words being lost. Are you sure?

Thank you

Sorry, something has gone wrong and this action cannot be completed. Please try again later.

${blog_item.article.title} (${blog_item.linkcount}{if blog_item_index == 0} technorati links{/if})

Loading …

More

Today's rising blog posts from

The 1988 BBC adaptation of the classic novel, with Alec Guinness & Derek Jacobi

From: £17.99

Read Full Article »
Comment
Show commentsHide Comments

Related Articles