Election Day.

South Africa will hold local government elections tomorrow. It is a public holiday to encourage the population to get out and rock the vote, as does the advertising throughout the country, calling its citizens to “Love Your South Africa!”

Last night, 48 hours prior to Election Day, I received a SMS text message from the leader of one of the political parties. It read,

“18 May will be historic if all DA supporters go and vote. We can win Joburg. So vote DA! Your vote can win in! Call XXXXX for more info. Helen Zille.”

Twitter blew up within minutes of receiving the message (see hashtag #DAsms); I was not the only person to get the SMS. Issues of invasion of privacy, sending unsolicited texts and purchased data had people up in arms and debating back and forth throughout the day today. 

I admittedly didn’t know as much as I should have about this election upon arrival, but I’ve certainly learned since touching down in Jo'burg. Local papers cry out insane-sounding headlines, the television news shares updates and of course, my peers both online (see hashtags #lge2011 and #SAElections) and offline have brought me up to speed, as much as possible. I share in this post what I’ve learned with no political bias (as always, feel free to weigh in on the comments or via Interactive Blogging). 

The two major political parties going head to head are the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The ANC has been the national governing party of South Africa since the country achieved democracy in April 1994. Self-described as “a disciplined force of the left,” and led by President Jacob Zuma, the ANC held majority support in the 1999, 2004 and 2009 elections. The party formed in the early 1900’s to represent and protect the interests of black South Africans, raised issue with passes and miners’ rights in the 1920’s and was the primary voice of resistance to apartheid in the 50’s and beyond. Riddled by corruption controversy, over alleged bribery, fraud, sexual misconduct and wasteful expenditure, the ANC faces much attack from the DA on these issues.

The DA is historically the official opposition of the ANC, formed in 2000, and the ruling party of the Western Cape province since 2006. In 2008, the DA announced that it was not the “opposition,” but rather another choice in government for its voters. A part of the anti-apartheid movement since the 1970’s and ‘80’s. and governed by former Cape Town mayor and Premier of the West Cape Helen Zille, the DA is the liberal-democratic, progressive party. It has grown support in all three of the most recent major elections (keeping the ANC below a two-thirds majority), increased its voice and representation in Parliament and took the outright majority in the Western Cape (the first party to do so in post-apartheid South Africa). Some claim the DA is “the white party,” a fact the DA adamantly denies, claiming racially diverse leadership, membership and ongoing efforts to transcend race.
A Cape Town street post filled with signs.

Tomorrow, the people of South Africa will decide between the two who leads their local government. Keep an eye on Twitter to stay in-the-know throughout the day. 

Not all humans across the world have a voice in their political system. No matter how inconsequential one voice may seem, or how disillusioned we can be the political process, I believe in celebrating the right to voice an opinion. Since I cannot rock the vote in South Africa (despite the SMS I got requesting that I do so), I will rock the Cape Town tourist attractions tomorrow instead. See you back on the interwebs on Thursday!

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