Voting Time Returns to South Africa

A crowning glory for South Africa’s pivotal political celebration of 30 years of independence

Quote: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18 1918- December 5 2013).

FREE AT LAST IN A DANCING DEMOCRACY | ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa took his electioneering charm offensive to the heart of the Indian constituencies and was not camera-shy when he took to the floor doing some nifty moves to the upbeat Indian music of Nagara and Chutney, which went wildly viral on Facebook, during his six-stop Durban – KwaZulu-Natal campaigning ahead of Freedom Day Picture: Supplied.  

THIRTY YEARS is not a long time in a country’s road to freedom, independence and social justice, at least by world standards. Through a multiparty parliamentary system, the new republic emerged as new template for reconciliation and racial harmony.

Now on the edge of its seventh democratic elections on May 29, South Africa is currently a portrait of a colourful cacophony of the sights and sounds that go with the big-hitting voting season – a noisy and dancing democracy is set to capture the hearts and minds of a divided and polarised nation as the premier league parties, opposition ranks and a plethora of smaller parties and independent candidates scramble for votes at the hustings.

IMF named South Africa, Africa’s biggest economy

There were some good reasons for the ANC’s incumbent president and head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, to put on a smiling face when he addressed the nation on Freedom Day from the citadel of power politics, Union Buildings. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had named South Africa, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $400 billion, as Africa’s biggest economy, pushing oil-rich Nigeria into second spot and the mass-based economy of Egypt into third place. Both these African powerhouses led the economic rankings in 2023, but were faced by severe economic headwinds that gave South Africa the gap to number one in the continent.

Could give the ruling ANC government a desperately-needed shot-in-the-arm

On a high-spirited election campaign in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Ramaphosa welcomed the news. Commentators predict that the new rankings could give the ruling ANC government a desperately-needed shot-in-the-arm weeks ahead of voting. He and his election posse broke bread with financiers and business people at the Al Baraka Bank in Durban before dancing the night away in an Indian chutney song and dance with supporters that went wildly viral on Facebook.

Ramaphosa may not change the lyrics of poignant history and reality-check of the current scenario, but he can change the tune to the country’s future. This is a nation fraught with myriad of social woes, joblessness, homelessness, grinding poverty and rampant crime across the land: “As celebrations take place across the country, we will reaffirm our commitment to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it … where we are united in our diversity, to build a nation founded on equality and human rights for all,” he said.

How we will rescue South Africa from crippling unemployment

The leaders of the main opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA), were also in town. Federal leader John Steenhuisen, flanked by KZN premier candidate, Chris Pappas, provincial leader, Francois Rodgers and chief whip, Siviwe Gwarube, on the Rescue South Africa roadshow in the eThekwini region, said: “The DA will deliver the party’s pledge to deliver real economic freedom to each and every South African under a new DA-led government. As millions more join the unemployment queue, this Freedom Day, the DA will show the country how we will rescue South Africa from crippling unemployment.”

Wild Card vote catchers exploited the red letter day

Other contenders, big and small, especially the wild card vote-catchers, Julius Malema’s EFF and Jacob Zuma’s MK, with the IFP, newcomers African Movement Congress led by Roy Moodley and Seelan Achary, exploited the red-letter-day to drive home political promises to millions of voters caught in the crossheads of the electioneering jamboree. The endless list of hundreds of political parties, big, medium, and small and rookies, plus a dozen independent first-time candidates were out at the frontline of the vote-catching hustings. The T-shirted brigades used the historic weekend to regale voters to try win their crosses on the three-tiered ballot.

Millions of voters became universally enfranchised citizens

On the groundbreaking day of April 27 1994, millions of voters became universally enfranchised citizens with full human rights and the new-born electorate gave the liberation heroes of the ANC a rousing 60%-plus majority to constitute and govern the new, reinvented and resilient republic in a multi-party system of politics. This time around, predictions and forecasts are running wild that the ANC will garner between 40% and 50% of the votes. The birth of a coalition government is a new reality.

These elections, electioneering, canvassing of votes, campaigning and hustings, and advent of the moonshot pact-coalition governments, are a manifestation of the heart and soul of a nation with an unfinished chapter in its liberation – the challenges and crisis of an unequal society, underpinned by an incomplete choreography and pending optimism for a better country; a better future for all.

“It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.” – Mahatma Gandhi. 

MARLAN PADAYACHEE is a still-practicing and seasoned journalist and photographer, former political, diplomatic and foreign correspondent, currently a media strategist, consulting editor, freelance journalist and publisher at MapMedia GreenGold Consulting (Pty) Limited; recipient, 2021 Ammen Award for Excellence in Media, member, International Federation of Journalists, Southern African Freelancers’ Association (SAFREA), SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), and Institute for the Advancement of Journalists, recipient, USIS International Visitor and British Council Fellow and Life Member, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (Gopio International), board member, RK Khan Hospital  (2001-2022).

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