[US to South Africa 2012] South Africa: ANC, Corruption, and Bitter Rivalries

09-18-2012 posted by Acypl

Today’s post comes from Beth Lewallen, a delegate on ACYPL’s US to South Africa and Namibia 2012 Program.

Cape Town voters are the rebels of South Africa.  In a nation of those overwhelmingly devoted to the political party that fought to end apartheid, these voters represent only a small percentage that has moved to the opposition party preaching enhanced personal responsibility and improved government efficiency.  Why this unique shift away from the overwhelmingly empowered African National Congress?  It depends on who you ask.

Citizens of Cape Town themselves frequently credit honesty.  They’re convinced the ANC is corrupt, and they regale you with stories they believe prove their point.

Members of the ANC just shrug their shoulders and credit luck.  They point out that the DA governs only one of the nine provinces in the country, suggesting that if the opposition party ever had to really govern the nation they would be at a loss.

To supporters of the Democratic Alliance, the only opposition party taken seriously in this country, it’s because Cape Town has not experienced the expanded devotion to the ANC that has shaped much of South Africa.  (The region was governed by other political parties many years ago.)  In addition, of course, the DA believes its ideas are better and more attractive.  “We make a credible offer to voters,” explains DA Parliamentary Leader Lindiwe Mazibuku.  “We’re the only growing party in South Africa, and in a short time have moved from being a yapping puppy at the heels of the ANC to the only serious opposition.”

When I’m in the presence of leaders of the DA it’s hard to understand why more voters aren’t swayed by the party’s worldview.  Reduced reliance on government to create new opportunities for all, increased accountability to voters and reduced corruption combined with the dynamic personalities of the party’s leaders: it seems so logical.  But of course it’s not that simple – nothing in South Africa is simple.

I will never adjust to the race-based view of the world held by South Africans but there’s no doubt it shapes their views on politics and the world as a whole.  The DA represents the pro-apartheid Afrikaaners to the Deputy Speaker of the Gautang Provincial Legislature, as evidenced by his comments to his DA colleague.  To others the DA poses the end of unions, a step that would unhinge the social and informational structures of many workers.  And to countless South Africans, the DA is not even considered as an option in a nation so connected to ANC policies at every level of society.

I wish our ACYPL trip could last a month just so I could understand the complexities in the history of the DA and the electoral dynamics that make the party think some voters are looking their way more than they have in the past.  In this whirlwind experience of amazing meetings and unforgettable conversations, however, I glimpse a frustration with status quo that assures me the future of South Africa is in the hands of young leaders who care passionately about their nation and their neighbors.  And that is enough to challenge me to bring their dedication to political engagement and discussion home to America.

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