News / Africa

On The Scene: S. Africans Vote Despite Cynicism

A man holds his identity book as he waits to cast his vote in Eden Park, south of Johannesburg, May 7, 2014.
A man holds his identity book as he waits to cast his vote in Eden Park, south of Johannesburg, May 7, 2014.
Anita Powell
Like millions of his fellow South Africans, Zoheb Khan woke early on Wednesday to cast his vote in the nation’s fifth all-race elections since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Arriving at his Johannesburg polling station before its 7:00 a.m. opening, he and his 18-year-old sister waited for more than an hour to vote.

There just was one little problem. Khan still hadn’t decided who vote for. 

“I’m back and forth a lot, I haven’t made the final decision yet," he admitted, standing some 15 meters from the polling booth. "The party I have traditionally voted for has let me down a bit. I think there’s only one other viable option [and] I don’t like them either, so it’s complicated.” 

Many South Africans say the party they’ve long supported, the ruling African National Congress, has failed to address longstanding inequality and provide basic services, and has been hurt by multiple corruption scandals. But many also point to a weak and untested opposition whose political foibles make them difficult to support.

Khan, a 28-year-old academic researcher, is part of an emerging demographic in this election, which comes 20 years after South Africa ended apartheid and became a democracy. Despite their growing cynicism that has tinged the campaign, many are nonetheless proud and thrilled to participate.

Even Khan’s sister Johara — a member of the so-called “Born Free,” post-apartheid generation — says she won't let her older brother's indecision dampen the excitement of voting for the first time.

"Generally, I want to vote for a party that’ll do the most good in South Africa, because right now I don’t think we’re in a very good place, so I want to vote for a party that will definitely make a difference,” she said. 

Johannesburg's usually packed streets were nearly empty Wednesday, and finding polling stations became very easy. By following any car on the road, one would end up at a polling station thronged with a diverse crowd.

At several polling stations, the mood was jubilant, with voters bringing family members, pets and children. Some voters donned rainbow colors of the South African flag while others wore gear from national sports teams.
 
  • Schoolchildren walk past a newspaper placard reporting the election victory of Jacob Zuma's African National Congress (ANC) party, based on preliminary results, in the Soweto township of Johannesburg, South Africa, May 9, 2014.
  • A man walks past an election poster of Jacob Zuma's African National Congress (ANC) party in the Soweto township of Johannesburg, South Africa, May 9, 2014.
  • Supporters of Julius Malema's opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party who were upset with the election results stage a protest outside the provincial results center for Gauteng province, in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 9, 2014.
  • Results released by the national election commission showed the African National Congress with about 58 percent and the opposition Democratic Alliance with 28.5 percent after about 3.6 million votes had been counted in the May 7, 2014 general election, Independent Electoral Commission Results Center, in Pretoria, South Africa, May 8, 2014.  
  • The country goes to the polls in the fifth democratically held election since the end of apartheid. Seen in this photo, South Africans queue to cast their votes at sunset near a polling station in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg, South Africa, May 7, 2014.
  • ANC party members check voters before they enter the polling stating in Mount Fletcher, Eastern Cape, South Africa, May 7, 2014.
  • The South African president and leader of the African National Congress (ANC), Jacob Zuma, casts his vote in Ntolwane, rural KwaZulu Natal province, South Africa, May 7, 2014.
  • A woman, with her thumbnail marked with indelible ink to prove that she has voted at a polling station, picks up her identity book in Eden Park, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, May 7, 2014.
  • Voters dance and sing in the early hours while holding up their identification documents as they queue to vote at a polling station. The station was burned down overnight in the politically sensitive mining town of Bekkersdal, South Africa, May 7, 2014.
  • South Africans queue to vote as mounted police provide security near a polling station that was burned down overnight. A tent was erected to replace the station in the politically sensitive mining town of Bekkersdal, South Africa, May 7, 2014.
  • Women sit and wait in queue to cast their votes at an informal settlement in Soweto, South Africa, May 7, 2014.
  • South African opposition leader Helen Zille, second from left, from the Democratic Alliance, raises her hand during a rally in Rocklands, on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, May 6, 2014.

While analysts say the ruling ANC will cruise to an easy victory with at least 63 percent of the vote, for many voters, such as 28-year-old Melisizwe Notwala, the decision to support the ANC is an emotional one.

Banned under apartheid, ANC officials and their many supporters suffered.

“It’s a matter of loyalty," Notwala said. "I know exactly where I am coming from, the sacrifice that was paid for where I am today. So I will just go there and do the right thing, for my family, as well as for my children.”

Maria Matlalias, 54, has voted in all five elections since she was granted voting rights in 1994. She said she used to support the ANC — but no longer.

“I want to change because the other one we was voting for here is not good," she said. "Now we have to change to vote another party, to get something, like water, electricity, a better life.” 

But Gracia Moreroa, also 54, says she’s giving the ruling party one more chance, although she has seen few fruits of South African development. Denied government-subsidized housing, Moreroa still uses an outdoor toilet in her home just outside Johannesburg.

“For five years, if nothing changes, if I’m still alive, then I’m not going to vote. I promise. Because it won’t help me to vote,” she said.

If nothing else, today's election seems to reflect a new facet of the Rainbow Nation — not just a country of different races, as the term originally implied, but a community of people with wildly differing views who believe their differences should never again force them apart.

According to the Associated Press, some 25 million South Africans, about 50 percent of South Africa's population, have registered to vote in the parliamentary elections that will also determine the president.

Results are expected on May 10.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More