Learning & Innovation – May 2, 2009
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Alas, a clean, honest and transparent elections!
Jacob Zuma is the incoming president of the Republic of South Africa and he is shuttling from meetings to meetings setting up his government amidst mounting speculations of who he will pick to serve in his cabinet. The Pretoria News quoted a member of the ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), national executive committee said, "Zuma's administration is goin to be about continuity as well as change, and his cabinet will reflect that." His inauguration is set on May 9.
I arrived here in Johannesburg, South Africa, last April 18. Unless you read the papers and you watched local TV news, you couldn't have guessed that there was a national election here. Posters are limited to few designated posts. ANC held townhall meetings in the rural areas and that is one big factor they garnered 66% of the total votes. The 14 or so opposition parties led by COPE (the breakaway party from ANC) and DA (led by Cape Town mayor Helen Zille, a white person) limited their campaigns to their bailiwick areas and to the broadcast and print media. ANC got a bad press because of Zuma. Of course, one must remember that newspapers and magazines here are owned and controlled by the whites and that Zuma and the deposed African and ANC President Thabo Mbeki are mortal enemies.
It was a very clean, honest, transparent and serious campaigns and elections. No noisy campaigning and speeches, no noisy and gas-guzzling motorcades, no loud huge posters, no guns, no goons, no gold, no paid showbiz personalities to lure people to attend meetings, no violence, no one was killed. Election results came out promptly a couple of days after the elections. Thus, there are no election protests, only post-election celebrations. There's lots of promising, dancing and singing. And gallons of mud mostly directed at Zuma.
Though Election Day, April 23, was a public holiday, there weren't any campaigning in the streets. People in the rural areas lined up for as much as eight hours in order to cast their votes for their beloved ANC. Travelling Africans were given privileges to cast their votes for national and local elections anywhere they are.
The South Africans voted for the party, not persons. Though the presidents of the party are presumed candidates for the presidency. For example, if a party garnered the most votes in the city or township, the party gets to appoint the incoming president, the mayor, provincial premier (equivalent to our provincial governor), and representatives to the parliament. The president appoints his own vice president from his party.
We and the rest of the world, definitely, have much to learn from South Africans. Remember that SA is a young democracy rising from Apartheid only 16 years ago. They have had only three elections and four presidents—Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki (who was unseated by ANC in mid term), Kgalema Motlanthe and now, Zuma.
Hats off to South Africans, especially to two strong and virtuous women, Brigalia Bam and Pansy Tlakula, the chanirman and CEO of the iNdependent Electoral Commission (equivalent of our Election Commission).
I remember our recent local elections. Our entire neighbourhood woke up in the mornings to find our houses, fences, street divisions, trees, telephone and electric poles and cables, every space available surreptitiously plastered with campaign materials in the dead of the night by paid supporters of candidates. Every day, we had to wash them down. Likewise, on election day, the road leading to the voting areas are littered with sample ballots you couldn't see the pavement anymore handed by thousands of paid supporters and promptly thrown away by the voters. Our elections are dirty, literally and figuratively, to say the least.
We need a change of heart , attitude and habits, not charter change.
(Moje spoke at the hugely successful ASTD-SA Global Network Conference and Exposition in Cape Town , South Africa and is presently touring SA. Follow her blog at www.learningandinnovation.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)