Lesson from S. Africa polls

Lose like a winner! That is the lesson from South Africa’s recently held elections.

What contesting parties won, they won with grace; what they lost, they did so with dignity.

The African National Congress (ANC) won re-election with a reduced majority; the Democratic Alliance (DA) was voted official opposition, but lost five seats; while the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) gained 19 additional seats.

Although for the ANC, the result was the worst-ever since independence, President Cyril Ramaphosa — with dignity — quoted South Africa’s first democratic president, the late Nelson Mandela, who spoke with grace during his inauguration 25 years ago: “Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.”

DA leader Mmusi Maimane told journalists that despite supporters leaving the party, he would never compromise on the DA’s principles.

The EFF, yesterday extended its “deep and sincere gratitude to the people of South Africa who came out in their numbers” to vote on May 8.

Other winners include the Freedom Front Plus, which took 10 seats in parliament, up from four in the previous election.

Inkatha Freedom Party gained an additional four seats taking their total to 14.

International and domestic observer missions endorsed the elections as free and fair, and broadly reflective of the will of the people.

Although the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), must also be commended for its professionalism and integrity, participating political parties made the commission’s work easier by following the rules.

As it is only African for us to learn from our neighbours, let’s draw a few comparisons:

The IEC made it clear that it had seven days in which to announce the election results. It remains a mystery why some political parties in Zimbabwe demand results a few hours after an election. Such unnecessary anxiety stemming from unjustified expectation, and not backed by law is a paradox of a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

As can be expected in any democracy, South African Police Service members on duty at voting stations were assisting voters and ensuring a safe and secure voting environment. In Zimbabwe, some feel the police must not even be seen on Election Day.

Democracy without order and responsibility is not democracy at all. The lesson from our neighbours is that the police must police, even on Election Day.

We saw that abuse of social media during election period can get one in soup. At least 22 people were arrested on Friday after videos were posted claiming that they have cast votes more than once. Locally, some activists believe they have a right to misinform and cause alarm and despondency on social media. Actually, abuse of social media is believed to be some sort of democratic right. Additionally, a Code of Conduct for political parties was strictly followed in South Africa.

For example, election results were announced officially by the IEC. Back home, some parties believe it is their right to misinform the public by claiming to have won elections before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission makes a public announcement. This criminal activity led to public violence on August 1 last year. Additionally, the electoral system in South Africa has also ensured that everyone is a winner.

Proportional representation (PR) has worked well to bring diversity and keep small political parties alive. Zimbabwe uses both the PR system and first-past-the-post (FPTP), but with a major bias towards the latter. The major advantage of the PR system is that it translates votes cast into seats won.

This is the fair share principle. The PR system requires the formation of political parties or groups of like-minded individuals. It’s more about the ideology.

This may clarify policy, ideology, or leadership differences within society.

Also, the PR system has few wasted votes. Every vote counts. This increases the voter’s perception in that it is worth making the trip to the polling booth at election time.

At the end of the day, the onus is on the leaders of political parties to be mindful of disturbing public peace and dividing the nation.

Last year, some political leaders hurt us with their words.

There is no loser when the people chose the leadership of their choice — that is the essence of democracy.

The violence that led to loss of lives in Zimbabwe has only given justification to those who want to continue with the imposition of illegal sanctions.

Zimbabwe, let’s learn to lose like the winners we are and not the sore losers our enemies want us to be.

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