Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Voting Day in South Africa

Gene sent this picture of a 6.65 acre American flag grown in flowers near Vandenberg AFB.  It was a touching image for someone who, although happy to be here, still misses home. We Americans take our flag and what it stands for granted most of the time. And although our government isn’t perfect, it is looked to as a model of democracy for the rest of the world. I can’t count how many people here have told me they wanted us to take them home to America with us. Today is election day in South Africa, and I’ll share the comparison.

Today is voting day in South Africa so another holiday of course (sometime I’ll write a post about the number of public holidays in South Africa!) If it were election day in America, we would be deciding between the Democrats, the Republicans and maybe the Independents. Here people have their choice of candidates from the ANC or African National Congress; the ACDA or African Christian Democratic Party, The APC or African People’s Convention, the AZAPO or Azanian People’s Organization; COPE or Congress of the People,  the DA or Democratic Alliance; The FF+ or Freedom Front+; the MF or Minority Front; the ID of Independent Democrats; The IFP or Inkatha Freedom Party; the PAC or Pan Africanist Congress; the SACP or South African Communist Party; the UCDP or United Christian Democratic Party or the UDM or United Democratic Movement. Those are just the parties that are represented in the South African Congress. If a voter can’t make up their mind from among those, there are another 70 or so parties that are registered and active but not yet represented in congress. We are told that the sheer number of parties is a problem because the votes are so split (you think? J) You would wonder how a decision is ever reached unless you look at the seats in congress. From the latest information I could find, the ANC or African National Congress has about 70% of the seats in congress with the other 30% being divided among all of the other 14 or so parties. The DA, which is the closest contender, has only about 16%. As you might guess, the majority party has traditionally been the black party, which would be expected since the black population far outnumbers the whites. The DA has been traditionally the white Afrikaans party, but both parties through times have been astute enough to gather members and supporters of all ethnicities, so now, at least in theory, it has become more a contest of political ideals than races. 

As the parties have been vying for voters, among the tactics used have been threats and intimidation with demonstrations and even some rioting leading up to voting day. Because of that, we are having an at home day, not wanting to get in the middle of any political squabbles. Hopefully there will also be great celebrations, since this voting day is the 20th anniversary of all people being able to vote in the country.

Anyway, the whole process makes us glad that we will go home to America with our squabbling but peaceful and predictable two party system and to a government with checks and balances that may deter the progress we sometimes would like to see, but also prevents the agendas of individuals from determining the destiny of the nation.

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