What Barack Obama means to South African politics

In South Africa, a country with its own difficult history regarding racism, an interesting debate has broken out in the blogosphere regarding what a Barack Obama candidacy — and a possible presidency — would mean to politics, and politicians, everywhere.

From Sean Wheller, who saw Obama give his Democratic “victory” speech in St. Paul, Minnesota:

I think it is really incredible that a black man and a woman have been able to run for office. It's inspiring stuff, even without the issues they are campaigning on. Despite the historical importance of this, I see so many things akin to South Africa in both Senators speeches, that I cannot help but wonder…

As a nation we face so many challenges, but no more or less than other nations. The Obama campaign shows that when people work in a spirit of inclusion and participation that great things can happen. Sadly South Africa's present leadership lacks the support of the people and thereby the ability to build a ‘just and equitable’ country where every child can grow up knowing that attaining their dreams is entirely within their own power. Leadership lacks commitment to nation building and the willingness to address the ills of the people. Most of all, leadership lacks the ability to inspire.

Unless we have change from the ways of the present leadership, I cannot begin to see how the nation can even contemplate the challenges it faces. It's not that we cannot tackle the challenges. As emense as they are, I do believe still believe in miracles and believe that an inspired nation can build wonders and change history.

With all the debate regarding whether “America ready for a Black president,” entertainment reporter Lindile Sifile ponders if South Africa is ready for a White President.

As much my heart wanted me to say Yes but my brain screamed a big NO. My heart and my brain had a big argument.

Heart: We are a united country, moss.
Brain: Is your definition of a united country, a country where white boys feed old black grannies with piss and then give them a bottle of brandy to wash it down with?
Heart: But it’s just a few indoctrinated individuals that did that.
Brain: Then how about the farm labourer that was thrown into the lion. Before you answer, what about the black girl that was painted with a silver paint by the farmer because he suspected her of stealing?
Heart: Its people like you who take the country backwards. Not everything is about race. Let’s get over apartheid and move on forward. White farmers also also killed.
Brain. Well, its naive and ignorant people like you who think just because we have a black president, everything then should be all good. A White president will be under more pressure than Mbeki coz people will be more critical of him.

From the very spirited comment section:

A white President? NO…we’ve come too far to go back. In as much as I feel disillusioned by the cracks within the ANC…voting for anyone else would be tantamount to invalidating everything that my fore-fathers fought for. It’s still too early to even consider such!

From Nic Haralambous, the founder and editor of SA Rocks:

I think that Obama and his campaign have revolutionised the way that politicians practice politics. Obama spoke to the people, about the people and for the people. Yes, that sounds very “American” in essence but not recently. Recently American politics has been dictated top down from a leader who was not voted in by the entire country. In fact, Bush received a shocking low percentage of votes when considering the entire population. America’s active voting numbers are exceptionally low. And if Bush received 25% of the population’s votes I would be impressed. I don’t want to get in to the working of the American political system because that is an essay all on its own, never mind a single blog post.

From what I have experienced and noticed from Obama’s campaign is that he pushes an agenda of hope, faith, belief and change. He obviously discusses his political policies when he needs to but never confuses the masses with excessive lingo that baffles the mind and confuses voters. He kept it simple and kept it real.

African politics is not real, South African politics is not actionary (is that a word?), it is REactionary. Helen Zille is the perfect example of this. When was the last time you heard Helen Zille speak to her constituency about anything that was not a reaction to something that the ANC has done, or not done? I can’t remember that particular moment. All I can remember her talking about is the ANC and how badly they have managed to do. This might be true much of the time but it is negative politics.

By the way, Nic Haralambous, says that Jacob Zuma is the South African most likely to pick up the populist mantle of Barack Obama.


  • I’m an American living in South Africa and when I talk to the rural black women I hear nothing but excitement for Obama. It means something very real to them that a black man might become the president of the United States. Regina, the chairperson of the weaving cooperative where I work, when she heard about Obama said simply, “God the Almighty is truly with us.”

  • karin

    I am a Danish journalist working in South Africa. I am doing a story about the South africans view on the american presidentcandidates. I would like your opinons: What do you think about Obama? Which candidate would be best for Africa?
    Best Karin

  • Nkosi

    My view is that Obama is president of the USA. The fact is that the Bush admin did more for Africa than previous regimes. Obama will be a more acceptable face of a superpower, but a superpower all the same.

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