South African General Elections

The Indian Premier League[IPL],the much hyped Cricket league of India was shifted out of India amid controversy recently.The primary reason that forced the shift was the inability of the State Governments to provide enough security to this mega sporting event when the World’s largest democracy is conducting its ‘mother of all General elections’ in April/May 2009.

Interestingly the IPL was shifted to South Africa were a General election is scheduled to be held next week,April 22.South Africa with a smaller electorate and a more urbanised population may not need that much security for its election which is to be held on a single day.This post is not about IPL but about this interesting election in South Africa.

South Africa always fascinated me.Mahatma Gandhi’s early political carrier and his account of apartheid helped me to know more about that country.Also in my student days the World wide struggle against the hated apartheid regime was at its peak.I did join in some token anti-apartheid programs in my College.Then many[including me] never thought the Racist regime could be dislodged easily.

Though it was not easy,the smooth transition of power from the whites to the hands of the native Blacks followed by the election of Nelson Mandela as the South African President was a happy memory to be cherished for a life time.
When I got an opportunity to visit Cape Town recently for a medical conference,I grabbed it with both hands. Register to Vote posters were there all over in Cape Town then. The signs of Affirmative Action was to be seen in notice boards of Hospital I visited.[Affirmative action is a type of reservation for Black Africans in jobs so that skewed racial numbers in employment could be reversed].

At that time African National Congress had just split.African National Congress [like the Indian National Congress here] is considered the main political force in the freedom struggle and enjoys huge popularity, getting 69% vote in last General election.The split based on both ideological and personality reasons was somewhat similar to various splits in Indian National Congress. I can foresee more and more such splits in ANC, like that happened in India.

The National Assembly consists of 400 members elected by proportional representation with a closed list approach. Two hundred members are elected from national party lists, the other 200 are elected from provincial party lists in each of the nine provinces. The voter do not vote for a candidate but for a party.The party gets certain number of seats as per the percentage of votes polled.The party has pre-decided on who will receive the votes for the political parties in the elections, that is, the candidates positioned highest on this list tend to always get a seat in the parliament while the candidates positioned very low on the closed list will not.

To know more about the issues and politics of South Africa I am publishing here an article by Zukiswa Wanner, a well known writer of South Africa.This is published in her blog and she had kindly given me the consent to post it here.

South African Elections 2009
by Zukiswa Wanner

There are those who will say that they do not vote because they have become jaded and politicians are liars, and I say that’s their democratic right but that’s not me. Given that many developing nations had the blood and guts of their people spilt to get the power to vote, I am not about to so casually dismiss that right. Moreover if it is indeed true that most politicians are liars, in a country where the national election only happens once every five years, the minute or so that I have in the voting booth is the only time I have to be truly free and ‘be the change I want to see.’ This year, I find myself in a bit of a quandary though. South Africa goes to its fourth democratic elections on the 22nd of April, and for the first time ever I am still musing over who to vote for at this late stage. In keeping with the 2010 spirit, I bring you, my finalists.
African National Congress (ANC):-

The party with a tradition of great marketing strategies that they successfully made one of its members, Nelson Mandela, an international icon. The winner of the last three elections, the ANC, yet again goes into the elections as the leading member of the tripartite alliance which includes the largest workers union Congress of South African Trade Unions and one of the few truly active communist parties in the world where communism is all but dead, South African Communist Party. As in the past three elections, the ANC looks set to clean this election too, what is unclear is whether they will get the two thirds majority they so desire and that will allow the legislature to rubber stamp every suggestion that comes from the executive as was the case after the 2004 elections. Part of the problem is the captain of this team, former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma. JZ, as he is affectionately known by team mates and fans of this team, won the Polokwane League in his party against a team led by former party president, Thabo Mbeki (he of the health Minister who was a strong advocate of beetroot and garlic for HIV/AIDS sufferers as opposed to ARTs). At the time of winning the league, there were corruption charges looming over his head but many in his Polokwane team believed the charges came because of foul play on the part of Thabo. After Polokwane, a judicial referee, Judge Nicholson, stated that there indeed was a foul by Thabo which led to Thabo being red-carded and announcing his resignation on a Sunday, a day before he was to have given his final address to the United Nations. When Thabo resigned as president of the nation, some voters also resigned their loyalty to the ANC. One can only assume that those disgruntled non-card carrying ANC voters had voted for the man and not the party. Meanwhile, the acting head of the National Prosecuting Authority just dropped all charges against JZ last week resulting in a collective sigh of relief from Team ANC supporters and much anger from other team supporters. Faced with disillusioned members who broke away to form a new party, the ANC’s campaign strategy has been to discredit the opposition and play up its triumphs in the 15 years under Mbeki (and yes. Mandela may have been President the first five but the country knows that his deputy was running the country) and promise more and better. With a budget believed to be the largest in this election, the ANC has managed to do what they do best – market with some great television ads. There is one with a young man talking of how he is unemployed but will still vote ANC because he feels he has better chances under them. They have also been doing door-to-door campaigns, toyitoying at my local store during weekends, and streets are full of posters asking me to ‘VOTE ANC, TOGETHER WE CAN DO MORE’. I admit to not having seen their manifesto because the campaigners have not come to my door and the marchers at the shops have just given me some credit-card sized card telling me about my ANC home. A friend and keen supporter promised to bring one to my door within forty eight hours. That was 72 hours ago. It seems delivery may not just be a problem of the executive but may be a problem with the rank and file members too.

Democratic Alliance (DA):-
Team DA goes to this election led by Captain Helen Zille and being the official opposition. Zille, who is currently mayor of that country called Cape Town, came to power after the resignation of the very divisive Tony Leon. Where Leon seemed to enjoy being a member of the loyal opposition, Zille will actually agree with the majority party on certain issues. It does not hurt that she is fluent in the second most spoken local language and the language most spoken in the Western Cape Province, isiXhosa. According to punters, Zille and her DA look set to take the Western Cape province on April 22, and not just the city of Cape Town. This will mean that for the first time since 1994, that province will be under a non-ANC premier. DA’s campaign posters talk of ‘one nation’. I suspect that this may be because, in spite of Zille, many people still believe that DA is a party catering for ‘white interests’. It does not help that one of their more contentious election promises has been the scrapping of affirmative action. Like the ANC, I have seen the DA posters and the adverts on television. The television adverts are beaten hands down by the ANC’s more people oriented approach. I have also not seen or read the DA election manifesto. There are those who will argue that if I am interested, I can download the manifestos but the point is, they want my vote don’t they? It should be up to them to bring it to me. Right now, I rule. I matter….I know I will cease being important on the 23rd but at the moment…hmmm. According to a recent Markinor survey, the DA might soon be unseated from the position of official opposition by new kid on the block, COPE.

Congress of the People (COPE):-
After the forced resignation of Thabo Mbeki, some incensed members of the ANC left to form the breakaway COPE. Among many amateur political analysts, it is believed that he is the architect behind the party. I do not know but I would certainly kill to be a fly in the voting booth to see which party Mbeki will put his X on. Among some Mbeki loyalists who have joined COPE are his former vice-president Phumzile MlamboNgcuka, the man who served the ANC divorce papers and COPE president Terror Lekota, former Gauteng premier and now COPE vice president Mbhazima Shilowa and businessman Saki Macozoma among others. Although COPE made a lot of noise and much waves when they first broke away, the money has not been flowing into their coffers as much as they hoped and this has debilitated their campaign. Earlier in the year there was much talk of dissent in the party when the party president failed to convince the national executive of COPE that he should be presidential candidate… too much taint from the ANC and some alleged tarnish from the arms deal. This has resulted in election posters that could be confusing to the average person with the face of both Terror and COPE’s chosen presidential candidate, the former political activist and Methodist Bishop, Mvume Dandala. The posters that I have seen do not have a slogan p- perhaps they could not agree on that either?
I also do not know what COPE stands for apart from Mbeki. It is believed that after this election they may become the official opposition. Their largest support base seems to come from the black middle class who are traditional ANC voters but may be disillusioned by Jacob Zuma’s leadership.

These three are not the only teams on the political landscape of course. There are others, more famous for one key individual, often the leader. I can honestly say of the parties below, I do not know any other members of the executive apart from their leaders.
From United Democratic Movement (UDM) led by Bantu Holomisa, one is told that ‘now is the time for all South Africans,’ it is unclear it is time for all of us to do what. Bantu will probably carry some votes in the Eastern Cape. His was the first billboard I saw so there may be some really good funders somewhere.
Chief Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has traditionally been a serious contender in the province of Kwazulu Natal province but this year it is believed the party may lose some votes to the ANC since ANC President Jacob Zuma hails from that province.
Patricia De Lille’s Independent Democrats (ID) will likely take some votes in the Western Cape and Northern Cape but the possibility of carrying a lot of those votes are minimal.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) led by Reverend Kenneth Meshoe is worrisome not for the votes it will carry but for what it stands for. The party is loud on morality and strongly anti-gay and pro death sentence.
Freedom Front Plus (FF+) led by Dr. Mulder is proudly Afrikaans and campaign promises are based restoration of Afrikaans rights which may work for some but which ensures they leave out a large chunk of the population as potential voters.
The Africanists like Azania People’s Organisation, Pan-Africanist Congress and others would have made more of an impact if they went to the elections with a united front. As it is, they shall continue just pulling a representative or two for parliament and therefore voting for them appears to be a waste of votes.

So? Any suggestions from out there in cyber world on whom I should vote for? Please deliver manifestos with a timeline of expected delivery dates to convince me.


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