In case you didn’t know (or care), South Africa held its elections a few days ago and, as expected, victory went to the African National Congress (that’s Nelson Mandela’s party for those of you not familiar with the ANC). Second place, also as expected, went to the Democratic Alliance (that’s the “white party” as it’s known down here), while third place was taken by the “new kids on the block”, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Formed by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, the EFF is only a few months old but gained almost 7% of the vote; which, with their radical demagoguery-laden manifesto, is beyond impressive.
As I sat there watching the election results come in, I thought to myself: “wow, this is the 5th time South Africans have gone to a democratic polls and once again, they have done it peacefully”. Now, that elections are peaceful may not mean much in the West, but down here, it’s not a given. In a continent where election violence affects almost 25% of all elections, you have to but applaud where they are completed without blood being spilt.
So I wondered, what makes elections in South Africa so peaceful? This is, after all, a country that has a rather violent past.
Well…in MY opinion…the fact that the main opposition party (the DA) is a “white party” makes all the difference. You see, in South Africa, race matters in almost everything you do. There are numerous black people who may approve of the DA’s policies but will never vote for a party run by white people. Likewise, there are white people who may approve of the work the ANC has done thus far but will never vote for a party run by black people. That’s just a fact…or has been thus far anyway. It’s a sad shame that this is the case but I also think it helps in as much as peaceful elections are concerned. Here’s why:
The ANC is a liberation movement and in my experience, liberation movements don’t let go of power very easily. In South Africa, it is obvious that the DA will not oust the ANC any time soon because the numbers just won’t allow it. They already hold the majority of the white vote. In order to grow, the DA needs the black vote but, as mentioned above, black people will not overwhelmingly vote for the DA anytime soon. That essentially means the ANC is safe no matter what you may think of its politicians.
But what if a worthwhile “black party” was to emerge today? One that has immense potential; one that is well run and not too radical; one that actually has black South Africans licking their lips at the mere prospect of change? What if a “black party” was to become the main opposition and realistically challenge the ANC for power? What if people voted for it in their numbers and the ANC actually lost an election? Would they walk away quietly? Would this liberation party break the trend set by liberation parties across the continent and instead peacefully concede defeat? Would we have a peaceful election then?
*just scribbling my election thoughts*