I’m currently at the Results Operation Centre in Tshwane, where results will eventually start trickling in from today’s vote. Two top IEC officials held a press conference at about 8 pm ostensibly to discuss reports that some voting stations had run out of ballots. But the bottom line appeared to be that there were no confirmed cases of this, despite some reports. It seems as though this may have temporarily been the case, but then more ballots were transported from locations that had a relative surplus of unused ballots. It could still be the case that some polling locations ran out. Still, no reporters at the press conference could bring up a specific case to challenge the IEC’s assertions.

I am actually skeptical of the need to hold the press conference at all. I suppose that it’s a sign of the relative insecurity of election officials and intense scrutiny of domestic and international media regarding the strength of democracy here. In the U.S. voting irregularities are usually only addressed in such a centralized manner once the voting is over. Part of this is due to the fact that in the U.S. the administration of elections is divided by states, counties, and other kinds of municipalities – not at the federal level.

I spent the morning going around with an ANC voting district coordinator as he checked on the three polling locations in the Klipspruit West area of Soweto for which he was responsible. The Times has the video.

Alright, I’m off the crazy train like Baleka Mbete on a bus in Soweto. Doesn’t make much sense except I did somehow end up following the deputy president as she rode a double-decker bus through primarily big shopping malls in the historic township. Here’s a video piece I produced today about the bus tour.

To complete this round-up of recent work, I have a an article and video about my time spent with the three main political parties here as volunteers went door-to-door campaigning in Johannesburg area townships. Below are full-size versions of the pictures that I took now up on The Times website.






Visited Kanana settlement near Rabie Ridge in Midrand, as part of my ongoing report about the campaign ground game in areas in and near Johannesburg. Many of the residents have been living in Kanana for fifteen or so years and claim to have seen absolutely no improvements. Toilet sewage runs through the alleys and roads. Towards the back of this photo, you can see one of the newer outhouses that mix in with straight-up port-o-potties throughout the settlement. No lights or electricity were to be found in any of the shacks I visited.

Places like Soweto appear to have had a lot of attention in terms of service delivery the second the ANC came into power in the first democratic elections in 1994. Other less known areas are still waiting their turn. Some people are wondering if that moment will ever come.

Now that the NPA has dropped the government’s corruption charges against Msholozi aka JZ aka Jacob Zuma, I’m nursing a fascination with the whole “Umshini Wami” phenomenon. The song is from the ANC’s days in exile, and was a song of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). “Umshini Wami” roughly translated means “bring me my machine gun,” and the song is Zuma’s near-official theme song. Crowds have sung it at ANC rallies, after his acquittal on rape charges, and the last couple of days since the NPA gave up his prosecution. I heard it for the first time when I followed a group of ANC volunteers going door to door in the Klipspruit area of Soweto.

Mosuia Lekota, leader of the opposition COPE party, referred to it in his initial announcement of the party’s break from the ANC late last year. Regardless of his chiding of Zuma for continuing to sing the song, its popularity appears to have not abated. I went searching for some videos of the song, and this video from the key Polokwane conference in 2007 seems to tell the tale of how it all went down that fateful December. Thabo Mbeki looks a potent mix of disgusted and crestfallen. Zuma is thrilled with himself. Strangely, Lekota, standing by Mbeki’s side, appears to be enjoying the spectacle as well. Maybe he’s just laughing at it instead of with it.

Without even beginning to judge the man in terms of his worthiness for the office of president, Zuma’s credentials as a performer are strong in this mesmerizing rendition of the anthem. He seems reluctant initially to sing along with the crowd, but soon launches into the song with full energy, waving his arms around his head as though he has been totally overtaken by the tune. As I joked to a friend recently, if I could vote, I may or may not choose to vote for him, but I would definitely be first in line at the record store if he released an album.

I’m midway through a report following around different political parties campaigning in the Johannesburg area. My general impression is that people in the townships are frustrated with the pace of change here. At the same time, many still feel tied to the ANC and its legacy in the anti-Apartheid struggle.

In Alexandra, people were almost uniformly furious about the lack of progress being made in alleviating their absurdly horrible housing conditions. They complained about cronyism regarding the handing out of RDP houses, the inadequacy of RDP houses, and general lack of attention paid to the struggling township. Shacks are literally on top of shacks, while dirty sewage, heaps of garbage, and unclean port-o-potty toilets line many of the streets. People openly admit, however, the ANC is the only party they will vote for if they vote at all.

In Klipspruit, a predominantly colored section of Soweto, most people were unhappy with the progress of the ANC and professed a support for the range of opposition parties: DA and COPE, as well as a smaller party with a colored candidate standing for president: the Independent Democrats and former ANC member Patricia de Lille. Klipspruit aside, Soweto, which is a predominantly black township (can’t we just call it a city instead of sticking to these Apartheid-era anachronisms), will almost certainly turn out overwhelmingly in favor of the ANC.

This election does not look to be shaping up as representative of  a sea change in perceptions of the ANC. Still, I think “All we are saying is give the ANC a chance,” doesn’t resonate like it used to. Instead of representing a clear move from past affiliations, this election points to new alliances of the near future. ANC President Jacob Zuma is considered by many a blank slate in terms of policies and who he might appoint in his cabinet. Similarly unknown are the prospects for opposition politics. Will the DA and COPE join together in an alliance? Would such an alliance include smaller parties?