Max du Preez

Our glass is half-full

2009-04-21 09:11

Max du Preez

The proverbial glass has been horribly half-empty in South Africa recently. Here, on the day before the fourth proper general elections in our history, are five reasons why we should notice that that very same glass is actually half-full.

Firstly, we are holding an election to choose people to represent us in Parliament.

Many other countries are not so fortunate to have elections every five years - their leading politicians are appointed for them. We may not all be happy with our government, but we citizens know one thing for absolutely certain: the only way our government will change hands is because of a general election, and not a coup or a power grab.

Secondly, we have an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) overseeing the elections.

The IEC's legitimacy and independence is not seriously questioned by anyone and no-one has so far questioned the freeness and fairness of our elections (or perhaps Mangosuthu Buthelezi has - there's always one, isn't there?).

There is virtually no fear that violence will break out tomorrow when the results are made known as happened recently in Kenya and elsewhere. Despite the strong emotions after the split in the ANC, there have been virtually no serious violence during the election campaigns.

Free to express our views

Having peaceful, free and fair elections and swift, uncontested results are a gift - remember the chaos and contestations the first time George W Bush "won" the US elections?

Thirdly, we are absolutely free to express our views and preferences publicly as we go to the polls tomorrow, even to shout and scream in an effort to persuade others to vote for our party.

The way the leader of the ruling party, the man who is going to be our next president, has been insulted and vilified by opposition politicians, the public and the media in recent months is a testimony to how solid our culture of freedom of expression is.

Fourthly, the fact that we have made huge strides away from race-based politics has been borne out by the election campaign so far.

A voter's ethnicity is no longer an obvious indication of whom he/she is going to vote for - just look at the number of white faces at Cope or Independent Democrats rallies and the number of brown and black faces at DA meetings, for instance.

Here's my final reason to state that the glass is half full. Three days before the elections the majority party has a massive rally. The leader, the most vilified man in recent South African politics, has every reason to make an angry, emotive, populist speech to whip up emotion for his party.

Reconciliatory, moderate and responsible

And what did Jacob Zuma do at Coca Cola Park on Sunday? He gave a boring, unemotional speech asking all South Africans to be tolerant and to work together to solve our problems, and he gave guarantees that the government under his leadership would not tamper with the judiciary or the constitution. He could not have been any more reconciliatory, moderate or responsible.

Ah, I've just discovered a sixth reason to be optimistic: there isn't a president anywhere in the world right now who can dance like our Jacob Zuma.

And here's a seventh: where else in the world would a national restaurant chain launch a campaign for people to go and vote and promise everyone arriving with IEC ink on the finger a free cup of coffee?

Before I start believing the glass is actually three-quarters full, let me conclude by saying that however statesmanlike and full of sweet rhythm Msholozi was on Sunday, I would still advise every voter to consider voting for the opposition so the ANC would not be tempted to tamper with our constitution which they can do with a two thirds majority.

But even if you're going to vote for more-of-the-same, tomorrow is South Africa Day, Citizen Day, Democracy Day. Enjoy it!

Send your comments to Max.

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