Headlines While We Slept: South Africa Elections


With stories of war continuing to harry world headlines, elections Wednesday in South Africa provided a welcome respite to news of the ongoing bloodletting in Kosovo and Kashmir. South Africa's second elections since the end of Apartheid are predicted to result in an overwhelming victory for the African National Council (ANC) and its presidential candidate Thabo Mbeki, the current Vice President under the retiring Nelson Mandela. Although the elections lack the excitement and violence that characterized South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994, news of peaceful voting signals progress towards multi-racial democracy.

Among the leading American online publications, several missed the cue altogether. Both latimes.com and USA Today failed to cover the election as of early Wednesday morning, although USA Today later covered its bases by running an Associated Press article. Washingtonpost.com also neglected the election on its front-page, however one of its editorials did commemorate Mandela's laudable role in handing over power. But the piece is more a vague reflection than a specific analysis of Wednesday's events. The Chicago Tribune Internet Edition also failed to highlight the election, but as was the case with USA Today, it did carry the AP feature on the issue in its "latest news" section.

Despite the missing coverage elsewhere, citizens of both the Big Apple and Beantown did get some insight about the election. Early Wednesday, the New York Times on the Web ran a front-page article that called the vote "ho hum," before replacing it with the same AP coverage used in other papers. This early Times article, dealt mostly with an open letter written by Mbeki to all South African Whites. The Times asks why Mbeki chose to court only Whites in this manner, and from there discusses lingering racial divides between Whites, Blacks and Coloreds and how these divides could impact the elections.

While the Boston Globe's boston.com used its front-page space to talk about White Afrikaner resentment to political marginalization brought about by majority rule, two editorials dealt with the more significant issue of the continued popularity of the ANC. One editorial in particular delved into the meaning of the ANC's appeal despite a worsening economy and hardening racial attitudes. Padraig O'Malley noted that the ANC is still, for many blacks, the party of the revolution and a means to express disillusionment with gross disparities in South African society. With Mbeki's promise for more rapid reforms, blacks are voicing their disgust over their continued economic marginalization and are calling for true black empowerment. So in a basic sense, the election is likely to reveal the ongoing commitment to the revolution that continues to struggle to mitigate the effects of Apartheid's legacy.

Zakariya Wright is a staff writer at iviews.com


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