According to Andy’s rule, democracies take three elections for all the participants - Government, politicians, electorate - to understand their responsibilities.

The first time, the electorate doesn’t believe it will work. The parties promise too much, and the politicians do not believe they can stay in, and make the most of their position (read - corruption)

The second time, the electorate is mad at the government, and votes the other folks in. It takes the third time for the electorate to understand their responsibility to read manifestoes and vote accordingly, and selfishly.

Well, that was the East European model.

In South Africa, we are approaching the second election - April ‘99 or thereabouts. The parties :-

  • The incumbents, the ANC. This is (was) a broad black coalition, excluding only the Zulus, headed by that all-round popular guy, Nelson Mandela. He was fortunate enough (??) to be in prison for a long time, keeping his record during Apartheid clean. Lets not be mistaken, he would have a long string of incidents to account for to the Truth & Reconciliation Committee if he had not been put away. Nelson is also a man of principle, and was big enough to strike a deal with De Klerk at the end of that era.

Mandela is stepping down. He is the wallpaper over the cracks in the ANC - which will appear more prominent when he leaves. His deputy, Mbeki, will take over - by most accounts a capable leader, but unknown to most people, and certainly without the charisma of Mandela.

Nevertheless, the ANC appear set to easily win the election, even though it is nearly a year away. There is little credible opposition that can command the black vote. There is also the appearance that it is almost treasonable to vote non-ANC, something no doubt strongly put about by current ANC politicians.

  • The National Party - the old guys. They got in in the Cape - where I am - and may get in again. Where they have a chance, White folks will still vote for them, as will the Coloureds, a significant number of which live in this area. But their days are numbered - their connections to the past are too strong.

  • The Democratic Party. On the face of it, they have good prospects, but they lack a traditional segment of the people they can call their own, and thus have to fight for all their votes.

  • Inkatha Freedom Party. The Zulus, and others in KwaZulu/Natal. Their raison d’etre is that part of the country, and they have shown no willingness to grow bigger than those regional issues. Much of the inter-necine fighting in that region is IFP vs ANC - Zulu vs Xhosa. They are becoming fractured and do not always enjoy the support of the Zulu King.

  • The UDM - (United Democratic Movement) - a much-needed attempt to form a new party across racial lines. However, their leaders have tended to be people that have fallen out of the feeding trough of the ANC and NP. They have won a by-election in the Northern Cape, but I question their ability to translate that to the broad support necessary in a General Election.

  • There are a number of smaller parties, that will only wield influence if there is a balance of power to exploit. Not likely.

The government has yet to deliver on promises made at the last election, particularly in the area of housing and jobs. Paradoxially, the opening of the country has spelt the end to many industries that thrived in the isolation years, like textiles, coal-to-petroleum, and military hardware.

The Truth & Reconciliation Committee has had the task of putting the past of the country behind, so everyone can move on. A very necessary function - however, it is taking too long.

South Africa has much to contribute to Africa and the rest of the world - they must get past their own problems first.

Cheers, Andy!