South Africa demonstrated elections can be peaceful

The African National Congress (ANC) has been declared winner of  last week’s elections by the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa.

ANC garnered  57.5 per cent of the vote. This is despite a spirited challenge from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party under the leadership of Julius Malema and other parties that sought to unseat incumbent ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa (pictured). ANC has been at the helm of South Africa’s leadership since 1994 when the country attained self-rule under Nelson Mandela, its first black president.

Wresting  power from the Apartheid regime  was a bitter and protracted struggle. For his role in the struggle,  Mandela spent 27 years of incarceration on the infamous Robben Island. Unfazed by Mandela’s incarceration, ANC continued the struggle, overcame and upon release from jail, Mandela became South Africa’s  first democratically elected black president. He would later voluntarily quit after only one term. That was an act of selflessness rare on the continent.

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In last week’s elections however, EFF made  inroads that challenged ANC’s seemingly unassailable position. Once a formidable party, ANC has fallen prey to the viles that bedevil African leadership, the worst of which is corruption. The economy is not doing as well as it should. Attendant to a poor economy, there are high unemployment levels in South Africa. This  has resulted in xenophobic attacks whenever locals feel disadvantaged in the struggle for the few available jobs with migrants.

Yet despite these challenges, there are lessons  for Kenya from South Africa’s last election. The first is that democracy is not about engaging  in endless, rancorous politicking. While elections in Kenya are a matter of life and death, where the tribal card is often played to gain advantage —everything comes  to a standstill and social life is disrupted through noisy campaign caravans that sometimes turn nasty — the situation was different in South Africa where elections were peaceful and orderly.

The campaigns were ideologically driven; each party enumerating  a clear vision. Parties did not campaign on the platform of tribe, which signaled a maturity that we should aspire to. While in Kenya candidates paste campaign posters on anything and any available space, including motor vehicles,  the absence of such eyesores and environmental hazard in South Africa was discernible. It was hard to tell the country was in the midst of an election campaign.

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ANCAfrican National CongressIndependent Electoral Commission of South AfricaJulius MalemaPresident Cyril Ramaphosa