Saturday, 25 April 2009

Waiting for the fat man to dance

Voting in South Africa’s general election is over and all went fairly smoothly. I marked my crosses (one for national government, the other for provincial) at the community clinic in the small town of Riebeek Kasteel, and there was a grand party atmosphere – drum majorettes from the local school were out in force (mainly milling about, but looking festive nonetheless), the queues were short, the procedure well organised and relatively painless (if you don’t count the fact that the man with the thumb ink did such a good job on mine that it looks like it was hit with a hammer), and everyone was in a merry mood.

I can’t pretend my heart didn’t sink yesterday when, during counting, the ANC vote rose briefly above the critical two-thirds threshold. It’s not so much they I think they’re actually going to do anything drastic with the power that would confer (although anything’s possible and some are probable), it’s more a psychological barrier: with fully a third of South African voters not ‘giving their mandate’ (eurgh; political terminology is so damned PC) to the ANC, Jacob Zuma might think twice about getting too big for his kanga, never mind calling for his machine gun. (Might.)

Of course, the ANC was quick to point out that although they got over two-thirds (69.7%) in a previous election, they didn’t use this power to change the Constitution. Although actually they did. They passed an outrageous Constitutional amendment in 2002 to allow parties to ‘cross the floor’, a truly cynical bit of political machination. There was also talk, not all that long ago, of bringing state organs (including those guaranteed by the Constitution, like the attorneys general and the Reserve Bank) under party control.

No matter! What’s important is that they didn’t get two-thirds – and that the DA, headed up by Helen ‘Godzilla’ Zille, my personal hero (and, incidentally, winner of the 2008 World Mayor award, chosen from 50 deserving candidates from every part of the globe), came away with an awesome near-17% tally. Way to go, Helen!

All that remains now is for Zuma to dance victoriously about the stage in a way that when I do it makes my teenagers cover their eyes in embarrassment, but apparently appeals enormously to almost – but not quite – 66.6% of adult South Africans. I think instead of watching the news tonight, I’ll get a DVD.

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