So today is the big scary D-day for the political gemors that's been building up over the last year or so. With half the bigwigs in court for various levels of currution, the biggest party having a major fight and splitting up into two groups...
When I've voted before I've been quite upset at the level of apathy that South Africans show to the whole democratic process. The queues are always bad, but generally more becauser the things in the front aren't all too organised, not because there's too much demand to join in. Last election day I was at university doing bservations on the lizards until 12, went to vote at 12:30, went home (all of 3 blocks from the voting station) had lunch and made it to work by 3pm. While I was there I noticed that hardly anyone had the black mark on their thumbs from voting, and if I asked, most people said that they didn't care.
This time, due to the fact that the university is over 6 weeks late to pay me and I need to put fuel in my car and feed myself when I go on fieldwork in 2 weeks, I accepted a fantastic double-pay shift at work, which starts at 4pm. So I figured I'd go through at 7am when the station opened, vote before anyone got there and then go home and work until I had to leave to go to the work that actually pays me.
At 7:30 I woke to find that my brother was calling me, and my alarm had been snoozing for an hour and a half. Bleh. Turns out as we registered at the same place we might as well keep each other company and so he picked me up and we joined the queue.
The line of people was 3 times as long as last time! It must have been over 200m of people standing around. Some enterprising people had set up a stall selling coffee and boerewors rolls (which smelled incredible but I'd just had breakfast and weetbix doesn't go well with meat) and we stood. And stood. And stood. andstoodandstoodandstoodandstoodandstood.
After over an hour, when conversation was drying up, our feet and backs were aching and we just wanted to go home, the little old lady behind us started trying to caht, while waving a climp of khakibos in our faces. It smelled horrible, and she apologised, explaining that every time she got sleepy she would sniff it and it woke her right back up. They should try that with long distance truck drivers, but I think they'd go on strike again.
Eventually after about two hours or so we got to within sight of the door, and a little bit sheltered from the freezing wind, a guy came and scanned our ID books to print out our voter registration number. I'm three thousand and something. The old lady started yelling at the poor guy with the scanner because the place was "obviously badly organised and what the hell is wrong with you people?" He sighed and carried on, it must have been his millionth lecture for the day and he's just doing his job.
The worst is the people cutting into the line. Old people (who are not just old but old and infirm, as the lady behind us explained) are allowed to the front along with whoever is helping them with the walker or the stick or the wheelchair or whatever. Apparently the lady behind us had been refused entry because although she was old enough, she seemed ok. She should have brandished the khakibos and gone with the insane argument - "you don't want me in the line, people won't make it out alive!"
Eventually we went through, had our thumbs drawn on - I wanted to request a smily-face, but when they refused to mark my right hand instead of my left I decided it wasn't worth it, scribbled my X where Iw anted it, stuffed it in the box and went home.
It took forever, my feet hurt and I think it'll take a few weeks to thaw from the freezing cold, but I'm glad that it was full of people. I'm really happy to see some South Africans caring about what happens to their country, and compared to before, it seems like a lot of people are voting when previously they'd stay at home and enjoy the day off. And after all, we got there at 8, and I'm home having tea and a cupcake by 12, it could have been a lot worse!
Here's hoping that it all turns out well in the end!
Happy election day!