Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Election Day – first impressions

This was a special day for me. It was the first time that my young daughter, Ruschka, cast her vote. I was pleased that she did not discuss her choices with me this morning, nor did she seek my opinion. Not that we did not have numerous interactions over the past weeks as we discussed the news and the events leading up to our 4th Democratic Elections.

I was more excited than she was. She just took it in her stride, joked with the policemen whom she stopped from driving up the one-way street. “You will be breaking the law,” she said. They laughed acceding that they were caught out and dutifully drove all around the block to reach the voting station.
Ruschka is completing a law degree at UCT. She was born at a time when the resistance in the country was intense. When she came into our world here at the Southern most tip of Africa, she had already spent time in prison. Today I remember the how I spoke with her during the weeks of solitary confinement; how I hoped that the world for her would be a better place.

Standing in the line with our green identity books, I was so conscious of how far we had come both personally and as a country. My finger was marked with black and ink and then hers was. In the voting cubicle, I glanced to my side and saw her at the second cubicle from me. I reached the ballot box and was asked to drop the national vote in one box and the provincial vote in another. The election official did not understand why I was hesitating. “Do you mind if I wait for my daughter?” I said “This is the first time she is voting.” He smiled broadly very happy to oblige.

After voting, we chatted to staff and neighbours and then set off home. She got ready to attend a friend’s birthday lunch while I got ready to stop off at various voting stations to sense the mood. I am so pleased that she is able to live a life not overwhelmed by politics. I want her to be able to enjoy her young life, serve her community and find her own rhythm. I remember my young life being so different. When I was her age, I was reporter at the Cape Times and caught up in the intense resistance of the time. There was little time to fiddle with hairstyles and make-up.

It was amusing when the reports came through this morning that women at one of the stations were being asked to remove the nail polish. No doubt an over zealous official insisting that the black ink indicating that they had voted would not take on nail polish.
The voting stain took on a new importance when we heard that anybody displaying the stain could get free coffee at all Wimpy bars or a free bun at Nando’s.
This commercial dimension will gain momentum at the next election and who knows what treats await us. It is indeed a very different time in our country. As a young student more than 30 years ago, I was turned away from a Wimpy because I was not the right colour. My mom and I were looking for a sandwich in Grahamstown after driving many hours from Cape Town and popped in at the Wimpy only to be told that we were not white enough to buy a sandwich. Today Wimpy is offering free coffee to all citizens irrespective of race.

Despite the huge challenges confronting us, we have done ourselves proud today. At the voting stations I visited, the mood was relaxed. Party agents either sat together or stood around together chatting easily. I pray that once the election competition is over that everyone will find it in their hearts to reach out to one another and work together for the benefit of all the people. I am off to the results centre where a press conference will be held at 10.30 tonight.


English Teach' said...


I am reading "Our generation" and I am truly impressed! I recognize in it so many elements from what happened in my country before 1989, which proves yet again that all totalitarian regimes act by the same rules :(

I'm thinking about including your book in the PhD thesis I'm working on. It's about women's identities in contemporary cities. I'm not certain because it's very much work in progress and I need to set my focus straight. If I do include your work I'll bother you again with questions :) Anyway, I'll be following your blog with interest.

Please receive my warmest thoughts and wishes,

Ramona Bran, from Timisoara- Romania

drzb said...

hi there
l just love to read your articles.
baie dankie

Naveed said...

Great articles...

If at all you are planning to visit UAE you have to visit the journalism department in American University of Sharjah, we would be more than glad to have you around for a day...

eda said...