On Wednesday (7 May) I made my mark in South Africa's general elections - 20 years after the first democratic elections in 1994. 2014 was not the first time I'd voted, but it was the first time I'd experienced the amazing togetherness of the Rainbow Nation that is our legacy. There are times when this amazing country of ours puts aside its history, past and violence and comes together as the great country that we are: the elections in 1994; the winning of the rugby world cup in 1995. After that it seemed that some of the magic had been lost but the country came together for the 2010 Soccer World Cup (which I watched with longing from abroad.) This week I had my chance to participate and saw that even after his death Madiba’s magic is still there.
In 1994 I was just 18 and I voted for the first time along with millions of other South Africans, but my family decided to stay away from the queues and we voted in a quiet rural area followed by a picnic at a river. In 1998 I'd moved to Cape Town and we were required to vote at specified polling stations. Once again I thought I was lucky in that there was never a queue at my voting station, but this year I changed my mind. I was woken early on Wednesday morning by the sound of voices outside and when I looked the queue for the polling station stretched up past the end of the road. A little bit later I went in search of coffee and saw that despite the long queues – it was around a 2 ½ hour wait to vote – people were standing patiently, talking to strangers, taking turns warming themselves in the sun on the other side of the road. This was the first election that the “born frees” were able to vote in – those people born after 1994 – and some of them made a real effort – dressing up as if they were going to support South Africa at a sporting event. Others were dressed in traditional dress. It was these people who reminded me what it means to be able to vote. It is a privilege that we live in a country where we are able to make a change. Where leaders are able to be held accountable for their actions and cannot act with impunity. I cannot wait for the next election. Rather than hope there isn’t a queue I am going to get out there and experience the Rainbow Nation coming together.