If you are looking for trouble …

On a mini-tour of Cape Town polling stations on Wednesday I got the message, without exception, that I had come to the wrong place if I was looking for trouble. Not that I was planning to cause any trouble …

I received this message loud and clear – if not always in so many words – wherever I went, from the sedate and leafy suburbs of Vredehoek and Rondebosch to Khayelitsha and then back to town via Mitchell’s Plain and Hanover Park.

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Arresting moment: Helen Zille

First stop of the day was Rondebosch where Western Cape Premier Helen Zille cast her vote and declared herself to be cautiously optimistic that the Democratic Alliance would retain the province.

Journalists were awarded with little excitement but a great quote when pressing her for comment on the recent hoo-ha over Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane’s use of Nelson Mandela’s name during campaigning. “Madiba belongs to all South Africans, just as George Washington belongs to all Americans.”

The former leader of the Democratic Alliance also dispelled any notion of simmering tensions between herself and Maimane when she said of the DA’s campaign for the 2016 municipal elections. “We have never run a better or more intense campaign.”

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Lillywhites lining up to vote in the green and leafy suburb of Vredehoek

From there I passed calmly though Nazareth House in Vredehoek to cast my own vote. In keeping with the location of a Catholic Church things were full of grace, but I couldn’t help being a little surprised to hear a man behind me in the queue firmly instructing his lady partner that she “had to blow hard!”. Did we get breathalyzed beforehand, I wondered for a moment, or was I in the wrong queue? In the end, there was no blowjob.

Things were was so well-oiled there that I had to slow the process down a little, the old hippy in me wanting to “feel every feeling” and “hold the space” as the modern selves clamoured to take a million cellphone pictures and tweet the hell out of the experience.

Proceedings at this serene and beautiful place – which houses a hospice and a home for abandoned, disabled and orphaned children – left nothing to be desired. The orderly queue didn’t appear to be slowed at all by the steady stream of elderly people being shuffled past us in their wheelchairs and on crutches in a makeshift Express Lane. Or, if it did, no one cared. It is incredibly heartwarming to see what people will suffer to make their mark, even in a place where people have died for the right to do so and in our lifetime.

I was reminded of that again on one of the next stops, at False Bay College in Khayelitsha, where we watched inspired as an elderly, disabled man put a lifetime’s effort into making his way on his crutches into the venue to make his mark.

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Can goats vote: the scene outside the voting station at False Bay College in Khayelitsha
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Not very inspiring polling station at Mitchell’s Plain

Apart from this, the venue was notable for little else except a passing herd of goats and one armoured police van parked outside. Asked if they thought police muscle might be needed, election officials here were the first people to tell me I was in the wrong place if I was looking for trouble.

They said the day had started with a little confusion until a system was set up to scan people’s IDs before they went into the voting area, but the “little bit of chaos” had been brought under control soon and everything was going smoothly by my mid-morning visit.

At the next stop, a polling station in Mitchell’s Plain, people were not struggling or even rushing to get into the queue at a rather tired-looking marquee on a “proposed site” for a church.

I was told that things might liven up later at the ‘proposed church site’, which less godly people might just call an empty plot or stand.

When Hanover Park offered no advance whatsoever in the excitement stakes I gave up the hunt, happy for having been given the chance to vote and hopeful that everyone else in South Africa gets that chance.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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Siobhan Cassidy

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