Thursday, April 23, 2009
It really is an incredible time to be in South Africa...elections, an entire nation prepping for the international stage that will be the 2010 World Cup. I went on a tour of the Green Point stadium, still under construction, and was struck by South Africa's passion for soccer. It's exciting, a defining moment in the new democracy's short history, and you can see and feel the anticipation all around you.
The ballots are still being counted from yesterday's election, the fourth since apartheid ended in 1994, and clearly one of the most important. This country faces such a vast array of problems despite it's relatively stable economy, flourishing tourism industry, and progressive constitution. Poverty, inequality, appalling crime rates, and mass emigration are all hindering successful development, and though there have been some improvements since the 90s, many of the issues faced during the oppressive apartheid regime still remain.
The ANC is currently at 65 %, and it is likely that it will retain it's 2/3 majority, granting it an immense and startling amount of power. And with a leader like Jacob Zuma as South Africa's next president, a man with little formal educational backgrund, accused of rape and corruption, that advantage becomes all the more serious.
There have been some signs that South Africa may develop into a multiparty system (the Democratic Alliance won 55% in the Western Cape, Cope, an offshoot of the ANC, is hovering around 10%), but the fact remains that the party of Mandela, the enduring symbol of the liberation struggle, is likely to remain in power for some time to come.
It's easy to get cynical about the ANC, especially with it's recent string of incompetence, but one can understand why so many South Africans are attached to the party. It represents an incredible triumph over oppression and hatred, and it still claims to be the party of the people. One can even understand Zuma's appeal, who speaks and acts like a common citizen.
It's a great story...the liberation party overcomes significant competition, marking another sweeping victory in time for South Africa to celebrate its many successes during the World Cup in 2010. But there are so many questions, and South Africans can only hope that the ANC will continue to face the country's challenges instead of giving way to greed and corruption.