Election Day in South Africa

South African President Jacob Zuma. (Photo from World Economic Forum/Creative Commons)

South African President Jacob Zuma. (Photo from World Economic Forum/Creative Commons)

South Africans will head to the polls on Wednesday for just their fifth national election since the end of apartheid in 1994. If the polls are to be believed, the African National Congress and incumbent President Jacob Zuma will retain power, despite facing scandals and a barrage of criticism during his previous term.

There are two lenses through which you could easily view this election: as a triumph for a young democracy or as a slide backwards after so many positive gains.

Neither is 100 percent accurate.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu had harsh words

when speaking to a South African newspaper.

“I didn’t think there would be a disillusionment so soon. I’m glad that (Nelson Mandela) is dead. I’m glad that most of these people are no longer alive to see this,” a reference to a host of chronic problems such as corruption and poverty,” he said.

He went on to say that he wouldn’t vote for the ANC.

While it appears to ANC will win regardless, the best barometer for the future of South African politics might come in Gauteng Province, home of Johannesburg.

The ANC’s chief rival, the Democratic Alliance, is making a strong push to take over power in the country’s most populous province. Even if they don’t win, a strong showing could tip the balance of power slightly more away from the ANC and have large ramifications in future elections.

The DA, after all, already controls Cape Town and the Western Cape, which is South Africa’s second most populous province.

South Africa is still a very young democracy. Even where it might fail today, it’s encouraging to see the system does have the capability to right itself.

I know many of my South African friends are heading to the polls today. Here is what my friend Sean said about voting:

“Whatever you do, make it count. It is a great privilege to live in this amazing country and to share in the freedoms it stands for.”

Happy Election Day, South Africa.

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