Archives For ANC

It’s always bothered me that my sister does not vote; she doesn’t even know who’s running for office half the time. This is surprising, since our parents vote regularly and were heavily involved in town government when we were growing up. Her husband doesn’t vote either.

This lack of civic involvement upsets me more because of the example it sets for their kids. When they grow up, will they not vote either? I always said that my kids — if I ever had any — would vote and participate in the democratic process.

So I was glad to see Mtuseni’s WhatsApp status messages this morning, as the South African elections come up this Wednesday. (Subtlety has never been his strong point.)

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South+Africa+Election

He’s been staying at his pastor’s house to shorten the commute to his radio internship, but is going home Tuesday night so he can vote the next day in his first election. He’s also been tweeting about the election on his station’s handle: @motc_kasiefm971

We discussed the election this weekend, and while I won’t say what party he’s voting for, I am glad it’s not the African National Congress. This is a shift from a few years ago when we discussed politics there. I think college and being exposed to other ideas and situations — perhaps even his trip to the US last year — has led him to modify his perspective. Yes, Mandela and the ANC helped bring about the fall of apartheid, but after twenty years in power Mtuseni is living in a shack with no water or electricity and will take his newly minted college diploma into a job market with 50 percent youth unemployment. If I was one of the millions of poor living in South Africa, I wouldn’t be voting for the ANC merely for its historic legacy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the ANC will lose its solid majority in parliament this time around, so perhaps little will change for Mtuseni and so many like him. But mainly I’m just glad that my long-distance son is voting! #Proud


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Dr-Mamphela-Ramphele-South-Africa-Agang-party

Source: Reuters/Yahoo!

I’ve been reading about Mamphela Ramphele, the medical doctor, anthropologist and former World Bank director who recently formed a new political party in South Africa. Called Agang in Sesotho (meaning Build), the party has been created in response to the long-ruling ANC party’s lackluster progress in addressing the deep poverty and social inequities in Africa’s largest economy. I have often griped at the social problems that affect Mtuseni and his family and community — and expressed amazement that a country with the eye-popping wealth in Sandton can have public schools with no libraries, computers, or heat.

Granted, my perspective on South Africa is through a fairly narrow lens, but the extent of core problems that I witnessed in Johannesburg and Cape Town can surely be extrapolated to areas of the country that are not centers of money or power. Although many black South Africans scrape out an existence living in abject poverty, a considerable majority support the ANC because it is the party that ended apartheid under Nelson Mandela. But that was 20 years ago. In the apartheid era, South Africa was like a house on fire. The ANC put out the blaze and slapped on a few coats of paint, but never made the necessary structural repairs. The house is still falling down.

Reading about Dr. Ramphele and her background — including a fellowship at Harvard — I thought of Hillary Clinton: another political figure with a commanding presence. A symbol of profound change. And an accomplished professional who brings to government not only intelligence but also the humanist perspective demonstrated by so many women in US politics. I felt an excitement learning about the doctor’s story and her vision for South Africa.

Dr. Ramphele said in a recent news article, “My generation has to confess to the young people of our country: we have failed you.” As Mtuseni studies by candlelight to obtain a college degree that I often fear may prove useless in the face of 60 percent youth unemployment, I can certainly agree with her statement.

After two decades of male-dominated ANC governance, perhaps it’s time for a woman to crack the country’s political glass ceiling. Perhaps black South Africans will realize that continuing to vote for a party based on gratitude for long-past achievements does not guarantee a bright future. Perhaps Mamphela Ramphele and Agang can indeed build South Africa — so that Mtuseni and his family and friends can enjoy the life of health, education and opportunity that was promised when apartheid was dismantled. As another upstart candidate once reminded a nation adrift, there is always hope.