14 October 2012

Politics

I have to say that I haven't been too depressed about missing the run up to Election Day in the US.  There is just a small bit of local coverage here about the Presidential Election, and nothing really about anything at the state or local level unless I go online looking for it.

Politics here in South Africa are a bit contentious as well, but here the country is currently dominated by just one major party, the African National Congress.  The ANC is a 100-year old party that was established to increase the rights of the black population in South Africa.  During the apartheid era, they were the major opposition to the policies that limited the rights of the non-white population, and after apartheid, they have been the clear majority party here.

Since 1994, the ANC has won the presidential vote each cycle with a clear majority, between 65 and 70%, but there are many other political parties here in South Africa.  The National Assembly has 400 seats, of which the ANC has 264 members.  The other 136 members are distributed between 12 different parties, although many of them have just a single member.

While a lot of Americans lament our two-party system that doesn't allow for much opinion other than "left" or "right", I'm not sure that being in a country where only one party ever has control would be a significantly better option.

The main opposition is the Democratic Alliance (whose logo looks an awful lot like Obama's logo), which has about half of the opposition votes in the legislature.  The party was also founded on anti-apartheid policies, but is a more moderate party, and is quite popular in the western part of the country.  Of the 9 provinces here, the DA has the majority in Western Cape, where Cape Town is located.  The DA acts as a watchdog, taking most any opportunity to point out wasteful spending by the ruling party, of which there seems to be plenty, judging by the news reports.

The presidential election cycle here is 5 years (I would be all for an extra year of not having to hear the partisan bickering) and the next election will be in about a year and a half.  The current president, Jacob Zuma, is not universally popular, and his handling of the recent mine massacre was widely derided.  It is unclear at this point, but there is a good chance that he will have enough support to be re-nominated for the 2014 elections.

While we may think that some of our recent politicians have had some negative qualities, President Zuma has been on trial for rape and corruption (before being elected) and as best I can interpret, he currently has 4 wives and is engaged to a 5th woman.  The latest census figures put his offspring at around 20, but quite a few of them are not from any of his marriages.  He tried to purchase a $250M jet with taxpayer money, and currently is making sure that the government foots the bill for a $25M upgrade to his personal residence, including houses for security guards, multiple elevators, a helicopter pad and a playground, presumably for his steady stream of children.  Makes some of our politicians seem almost saintly.  Almost.