For those who have not noticed South Africa is in the grip of election fever again. Here in the Southern Cape this occasion is marked mainly by the application of lots of posters on lamp posts across the town – sometimes even on a fence pole on the country roads.
This year things seem to be different. Elections have always been times where large gatherings have been held and the old party faithful were all worked up to turn up on polling day. At these gatherings throughout the history of South Africa there has been many colorful stories of the opposite party turning up at the other party’s meeting. The result was a good old fist fight in back of the hall.
Neighbours sometimes did not greet each other for weeks. Until one day, when the would embrace each other and sit down for endless cups of coffee. That is till the next election – when the whole process would repeat itself.
Talking about elections and coffee – years ago an old party campaigner told Fredo that campaigning in Namakwaland could be quite hazardous. Our friend said that if you walk into a house and the owners says to you: “Nefie, hoe lyk dit met ‘n bietjie GAAT” – (Young man, would you like a bit of GAAT?) The problem he says, is that GAAT is the coffee that the old timers in that region drinks. GAAT is made from the roots of the WITGAT tree – and once it is properly prepared, one cup is enough to send the head spinning. “When you are offered GAAT, you go for anything else – whiskey, brandy, mampoer! The problem is that if you do not want to drink their GAAT – you can forget about them voting for your party,” he told Fredo.
Covid changed it all!
COVID-19 is not allowing us to embark on normal election time behavior. We will see if Election Day will be the same old colorful event, with parties erecting tents outside voting stations where T shirts are dished out and loud music and dancing can be heard. Fredo really enjoys visiting the colorful village of Melkhoutsfontein on these days – just to take in the jolly atmosphere and see the faithful party members, and others not so faithful, dancing in the street.
What they are dancing for, Fredo does not know. Frankly when it comes to politics, there is not much to rejoice about in our country today. Granted, here in our outpost, things are much different from other parts of the country. The present local government is telling us that they are doing a great job and in the absence of any other evidence one will have to believe them.
Whether it is related to the election or not, the recent start of a major housing project at Melkhoutsfontein could well be seem, by some sceptics, as the last-minute effort to convince voters that they should entrust the same party with their vote for another five years. It must be noted that some families there have been waiting for many years for decent housing and if they now get houses – it is great. We applaud this new project to answer in their need.
Election times in other parts of the country seems to be rather grim, with daily reports of politicians being attacked and killed. Most South Africans will also say that there is no reason to trust the national government who simply makes one promise after the other and never deliver. They point to billions and billions off South African rands having been embezzled – if we had these funds, we could have worked wonders in our country.
At least in the old days you were voting for a candidate – and if elected – you can afterwards call him and bring him to book if he steps out of line. Imagine how much fund we will have communicating with our man on instagram or facebook or twitter – and how they would have to jump to listen to us.
To prevent yourself from getting morbid, one should always look at the funny side off things. Therefore, a conversation Fredo recently heard in the town of Stilbaai made him smile. It was at the time when the country’s president was making lots of statements, about Covid and other things, also in relation to the British travel ban between our two countries. South Africa receives more than 500,000 British tourists every year – not to count visitors from other countries. Needless to say, the South African tourism industry have been battered and bruised by Covid and other regulations imposed to counter it.
Listening to the ladies of Stilbaai
This is when Fredo heard an elderly lady telling a friend that “Squirrel was going to phone Boris” to lift the British ban. It took some time for Fredo to work out that “Squirrel” is in fact Cyril Ramaposa, the country’s president. In fact, she also pronounced Ramaposa, the president’s surname, in a way that could not be repeated.
Fredo learn from a political writer that the President also had another nickname. “I call him ‘Cereal’ – imagine having Squirrel for breakfast.”
Speaking of old ladies – in Stilbaai there are numbers of senior citizens that happily drive around the town in their little cars. Fredo does not know how they cope in the holiday season when the roads are literally blocked by cars of visitors – some many impatient at that. Our old Tannies (Aunties) are a menace on their own and when you see them, you must give them a wide berth. Stop streets mean nothing – or pulling out of parking is done with little care. They first drive and then they look!
Luckily, it should still be quiet at election time – so the “dear aunties” will reach the voting booth safely.
Our local Mayor is a man called Grant Riddles. When we recently had a cup of tea, Grant told him that when his party came to power the local authority was drowning in debt. “Today we have a surplus of R600 million.”
Very admirable, Fredo thought. That explains why everyone in the North of the country are flocking to the sea. Their arrival should also throw up some interesting new voting patterns.
Grant Riddles originates from Melkhoutsfontein – where Fredo understand that just about every person is somehow related to the Riddles family. Working this out, is indeed a ‘riddle’.
Nationally, two guys who will probably not vote for the governing party, are the Ace of Spades and our friend “Kareltjie.” Here in the Southern Cape it really does not bother us what they do. “Kareltjie” is suing his own party for salaries he needs to pay for his uniform – and we say good luck to him. There are many other employees of the governing party who probably also had to wait a while for their money.
Fredo suspects that by 3 November all will have quieten down again – and we will have five years for those characters who are elected to do a better job than in the past. Fredo somehow do not have much hope!