Grass-roots account

2010-12-15 00:00

THERE can hardly be anyone better placed to write the story of South Africa’s first democratic election than Peter Harris, who was head of the monitoring division of the Independent Electoral Commission. His job was to watch not just the proceedings, but also the officials responsible.

The reader is struck by the sheer energy, imagination and initiative that enabled the elections to take place against formidable odds. Herculean efforts were made at short notice to set up communications systems and service polling stations.

But where exactly was the conspiracy of Harris’s subtitle?

The Third Boer War of Liberation was no more than the fatal blundering of a few far right-wing fantasists. Their chance of subverting an army and police force traditionally loyal to the state was negligible.

Inkatha shrewdly employed the threatening brinkmanship at which it was then so adept, to keep a regional party in the news.

The greatest danger to the election turned out to be a lack of administrative capacity to deal with mundane supply issues. This needed no conspiracy as we know all too well from the following 16 years.

Then there was the hacker who disabled the electronic count. No one has ever been identified. In a sense this did not matter as the election was riddled with irregularities and its finer details negotiated.

Harris writes from a personal perspective, recording his feelings and interweaving the narrative carefully with stories of family life. The definitive account with its historical analysis has yet to appear. For the time being this is a good read that will trigger many memories.

But it is a pity that Harris was not dissuaded from overusing direct speech. It, and a smattering of expletives, cannot possibly be remembered with accuracy after all this time and simply adds a rather contrived air to an absorbing story. Christopher Merrett

BOOK REVIEW

Birth: The Conspiracy to Stop the ’94 Election

Peter Harris

Umuzi

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.