South Africa: A paradigm shift in elections

With the presidential election looming in the United States, and the resulting media circus that follows — and, to a certain degree, prompts the campaigns — much attention is diverted from pivotal elections in other parts of the world.

Take, for instance, the forthcoming presidential elections in South Africa. In recent weeks, the ANC, which is currently the country’s majority party, held its national party elections. For the first time in its 58-year history, the party leadership was contested from within, and President Thabo Mbeki, with less than 40 percent of the vote, was effectively given a vote of no confidence by party delegates. Jacob Zuma, with 60 percent of the vote, won the party leadership and is well situated to become the next president of South Africa.

This exercise of majority decision-making is significant in that it marks a continued evolution in the democratic processes of one of Africa’s most vital nations.  As the country moved from a system of apartheid into a new era of equal representation and rights to participation, it is becoming a model to be watched, as a new paradigm for African nations and the world at large. No party or government is truly tested until the time comes to evaluate its own effectiveness or change its leadership.