Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I’ve been away for a bit but the biggest news I remember is still this new break-away party—The Congress of the People (COPE). The ANC is challenging COPE’s right to use that name. Meanwhile the COPE actually won more seats in by-elections last week than the ANC who, in my province of the Western Cape, failed to compete in 12 of the 27 contested seats. COPE won 10 and the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 9 of them. The ANC won only 3 of the 27. The interesting thing is that the ANC used to hold all of them. (pause, take that in for a moment)
So why it’s so interesting is that this is the thing I have told South Africans about when they ask me if their political situation will ever be different. I point to all other countries that have liberated themselves and I say one word: time. It seems like it is starting happen. What’s interesting is that this is not just any alternative; this is an actual black South African alternative. The DA is an alternative, but it is mostly a white liberal group. I believe the DA is happy about the formation of COPE as it weakens the ANC hold over politics and perhaps creates a political choice for Black South Africans who traditionally (though tradition is only since 1994) voted for the ANC, the liberation group. And if you actually make the Black South African voter think before choosing and sway some of them not to vote for the ANC, then it gives the DA a better chance of beating the ANC. I think the DA has not really wanted to join with COPE, though they could have done so and made a more powerful opposition group. I cannot tell you why, though.
The opposition groups here are still dominated by being against something instead of being for something. So I have no idea what the DA supports or believes. I say the same thing about COPE. And to be honest, I’ll say the same about the dominant party—the ANC. I mean I know who they are supposed to be for—the person on the street, in the rural areas, the worker, the domestic, the construction worker, the jobless. But things have not changed for them anyway. Perhaps some may say, “Let’s try something new. What have we got to lose? Nothing.” So we’ll see if this pans out. Right now, it still doesn’t seem likely that the COPE will truly contest a Zuma victory next year because I’m not certain of COPE’s appeal to people outside the Western Cape (50% coloureds) or the Eastern Cape (lots of Xhosas which Mbeki and Mandela are a part).
Many people welcome the addition of COPE to the political spectrum because it gives them a place in politics after losses at Polokwane (when Zuma won the ANC presidential race). Everyone is watching and waiting. Things do seem to be changing, but slowly. Remember, the only reason for these by-elections was due to people quitting the ANC or being kicked out by the ANC. So political differentiation has started.
In other news, we hosted the 2008 Miss World. I believe Miss Universe is more popular in the States. Here, and in many countries, Miss World is more popular. This year it’s being held in Johannesburg. I watched part of it when I came in to the States. This year Russia won with India (no surprise) and Trinidad and Tobago (no surprise) as runners-up.