Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hear Melanie Verwoerd describe the 1994 South African election

I still recall the frisson that tingled me when I bought my first bottle of South African wine, and I can tell you the wine shop in York where I bought it. That was twenty years ago today, as I was reminded this morning by RTÉ's Marian Finucane in discussion on the radio with Melanie Verwoerd, former South African Ambassador to Ireland, marking the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections.

It's the second item on this page.

Hear Melanie describing her emotions when she saw the silent queue to vote at 5 am, telling of a grandfather pushed in a wheelbarrow to vote coming out of the polling booth clutching his fist in the air and falling down dead, and relating how Archbishop Tutu couldn’t describe what it felt like to be voting for the first time. (He said it would be like trying to describe the colour red to someone born blind.) Much could be said and much is being said in the run-up to the current South African elections about disappointed hopes, and this was touched on in the discussion, but in the main it was a celebration of the day and there's no harm in that.

I'm not sure who the studio guest is who comments on the voting queues, I think it might be Theo Dorgan, an Irish poet (born 1953).

The South African constitution was mentioned. I like the preamble, so here it is:

South African Constitution, 1996


We, the people of South Africa,

- Recognise the injustices of our past;
- Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
- Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and
- Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to ­

- Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
- Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
- Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
- Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

May God protect our people.