This post is a long time coming, but I headed to Lesotho before the official results of the South African elections were in, and haven’t had a chance to sit down and write about them until now! South Africans flocked to the polls on April 22 to vote in their 4th democratic election since the end of apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) was the ruling party going into the elections, and with the election of Jacob Zuma to the presidency, it continues to be the dominant political party in the country. There were a lot of passionate opinions on all sides, and one thing that I’ve found while being in South Africa is that most people I’ve talked to have been so open and candid about the parties they support and the reasons why, some of the reasons for support having to do with everything from supporting the party of Nelson Mandela to voting for a party because that’s how their families always vote. On Election Day I played the unofficial role of international election observer by heading to the polls to watch the South African voting process in action. The line at the polling place I went to was enormous, which I think is a testament to South African democracy and how much it means to the citizens of the country. I went back several times during the day to watch everything unfold, and at the end of the day, when the line had died down, I decided to get inside of the polling station and watch people vote, which I did. There are no electronic voting machines in South Africa, so it’s all done by paper ballots and everyone then puts their marked ballot paper in a box. Everyone also has to have special ID booklets to prove their identity.
I talked to a lot of the young people in the line about why they were voting and how they felt about these elections. Many of the people had been inspired by the American elections, and how important the youth vote had been for the election of Obama. There was also an overwhelming sense of excitement exuding from them about finally having the opportunity to vote, and feeling that it was their duty to go out and vote. I was impressed how orderly and well run the elections in Cape Town were. It was an exciting day to be in South Africa, witnessing the elections and democracy in action. Having spent so much time learning about the history of South Africa, it was great to witness an important moment in the country’s present history that will certainly have ramifications for its future.