26 April 1994. I was there
too. We all were, millions of us, sharing the same event for the first time. This was the first mass democratic election
in the history of the Republic
of South Africa
I hadn't voted before, for a couple of reasons. I’d only been old enough to vote for a few years. I didn't bother to participate in the prior system, I didn't want to give it the legitimacy of my privileged vote.
I don't recall a strong police presence. I do recall my girlfriend of the time, a brown girl, a muslim, a student, was working at another polling booth. It didn't work out. But that's another story.
I stood in the queue at the Claremont civic centre, among my neighbours, people from a similar background to myself. The ones with the most to lose. The nervous ones. But the tension was low.
And then the event: A quick mark on paper, my fingernail marked with ink, and and my ID book stamped.
I didn't feel any doubt. We had to do what we had to do: To draw a line under the past. To send a signal: it is over, it aint going any further. So I put my crosses for national and local next to Nelson Mandela's smiling face, for the ANC. You can feel that your vote is part of something, or you can feel that it is insignificant. Regardless, you can still do what you feel to be right.
So I stepped out of the building, and into the New South Africa.
Would I vote for the ANC again? I'm not sure. They have grown complacent, they enjoy the trappings of power too much. They make policy blunders. They need a far stronger opposition to keep them on their toes, and it's not materialising. It’s an all-too-familiar African story. But it’s a different one. On that day, we were part of something special and wonderful.