Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

22 Apr

Late again with my response.  This is a terrible habit I have acquired.  In my defence, I never miss a plane.  Not that I ever go anywhere (except to France and Spain in the last six months, and possibly to Germany in the future, if I can find a cheap enough ticket).

I thought I would take you on a different journey today: a trip down memory lane; a journey from the past to the future; from wrong to right.

I lifted and edited this from my now defunct South Africa blog.  It’s not amusing, but I hope you enjoy it.

Here is Tory Boy, just turned four:

27 April, 1994, the day on which this was taken, was one of the best days of my life.  It was the first day of the first free and fair elections in South Africa.

We were living in Alberton in the Transvaal at the time.  We got up early to be at the polling station for seven, when it opened.  We didn’t want to be stuck in queues all day long.  The government had declared a national holiday so that everyone could vote, and it seemed like everyone intended to do just that.  Whole families turned out to vote.  We had four-year old Tory Boy with us.

We were first in the queue, but only just.  Not that it did us any good: we were still first in the queue come four o’clock in the afternoon.  There were no ballot papers at the polling station.  The election officials popped out periodically to tell us that they were on the way – in a helicopter now – would be here any minute.  None ever showed up, except on auction sites in the last few years.

In spite of this, and in spite of the news of bombs going off at Jan Smuts Airport, the mood of the crowd was joyous.  There was a lot of singing and a lot of braaing [barbecuing]: those who came later and knew about the long wait brought their skottels [portable gas barbecue] and fold-up deck chairs.  The Hub went home to make us some sandwiches and drinks.  We needed them.

We chatted to everyone around us.  There was a tearful old man who had never believed that he would ever get the chance to cast his vote.  There were Afrikaaners, resigned to the inevitable and taking it gracefully; and many more who welcomed it.  I suppose those with strong opposition to the change were elsewhere, protesting.  People of every race, tribe, ethnicity, colour and political persuasion stood in that queue and waited with great patience for the ballot papers that never arrived.

There were no murmurings or angry voices, but there were a lot of rumours about what was happening in the rest of the country.  We were in a capsule, a moment in time when we were all in this together, all looking toward a happy and prosperous future; each believing that things would be better, fairer, and right.  We were in the mood to party, not fight.

No ballots came.

Because of our tired little boy, we wondered if we should go home and come back next day – the election was intended to be held over two days, but lasted three because of the problem of having nothing on which to cast your vote – but then we heard there was a magical polling station a few miles on which did have ballot papers, and even – whisper it - enough to go round.  We thought it was worth trying because we really did want to cast our vote on a day that would go down in history.  We wanted Tory Boy to be able to say that he was there.

I don’t remember where either polling station was, except that the first was in a suburb and the other in a huge, unkempt field.  At the second, we joined a slightly smaller queue that we could see was moving, though it didn’t have the atmosphere of the first.    It took three hours but we got inside at last.

The most bizarre moment of the day for me was when I went into the booth and there was a scruffy little stub of a pencil.  It didn’t seem fitting to cast a vote that would help change the political landscape of a nation, with a tatty bit of lead.  To this day, I’m not certain that I wasn’t expecting quills or expensive fountain pens.

In the PWV area (Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging) we had a choice of thirteen parties.  As brave as the National Party had been, I couldn’t vote for the architects of Apartheid.  I couldn’t vote for the ANC bunch of terrorists either, no matter how just their cause.  I didn’t think the KISS lot (Keep It Straight and Simple) was taking the whole thing seriously enough; and the Women’s Rights Peace Party was missing the point. 

I voted for the Democratic Party.  Helen Suzman was a lone white protest voice in the wilderness of the Apartheid government for many years, so I voted for her party, which I felt had moral conviction.  As the vote was by proportional representation, I helped them to their seven seats.

I discovered a wonderful quote from Helen Suzman, via Wikipedia:

She was once accused by a minister of asking questions in parliament that embarrassed South Africa, to which she replied: “It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa; it is your answers.”

Our tiny piece of history made, we took our exhausted child home, probably collecting a takeaway on the way.  Once he had eaten I put him straight to bed.  We followed soon after.  History is important but it’s the mundane that keeps us going.

Relatives living further out told us they hadn’t bothered to vote on the first day when they saw the queues; they left it to the next day and walked straight in and out.  It seemed most of the country wanted to vote on the twenty-seventh.  I guess we were not the only people conscious of our tiny place in history on that glorious day.

Photo found here.

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47 Responses to “Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey”

  1. speccy April 22, 2012 at 14:07 #

    What a wonderful thing to be part of!

  2. roughseasinthemed April 22, 2012 at 14:10 #

    I too would have voted for Suzman. I remember reading about her years ago and thought she was outstanding.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 14:19 #

      An amazing woman.

      Her niece is Helen Suzman, the actress who played Alexandra in the film Nicholas and Alexandra, about the the last days of the Romanovs…talk about dramatic irony…

  3. vivinfrance April 22, 2012 at 14:12 #

    I remember this: a splendid piece of your (and SA’s) history.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 14:23 #

      Thanks. posting this got me fired up to do something about getting it together in a book. I was telling the Hub about your encouragement and he says I have to do it now, to make you happy (I’m paraphrasing – the words ‘old lady’ might have crossed his lips but I will never tell)

      • vivinfrance April 23, 2012 at 14:30 #

        Now you have the material organised, you have no excuse to delay. And my wish is that it will make YOU happy. Give Hub a kiss from me.

        • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 14:58 #

          Consider it done!

          The kiss, that is :)

  4. Pseu April 22, 2012 at 14:26 #

    Marvellous to be involved in such a momentous day,

  5. laurieanichols April 22, 2012 at 14:44 #

    That has to be such a wondrous feeling, knowing that you are taking part in something big, important and life changing not just for you but also for your entire country. That is AWEsome. That was quite the journey for South Africa.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:06 #

      It was; and it’s still ongoing.

  6. terry1954 April 22, 2012 at 15:04 #

    this was very interesting

  7. judithatwood April 22, 2012 at 15:15 #

    A tired child is a small price to pay, for that child to be present at an event of this importance. When he is old, he will tell his children and grandchildren that he was THERE!

  8. SidevieW April 22, 2012 at 15:47 #

    None of us will forget that day. For the first time as a white voter feeling I could vote for just me and not feel the pressure to also vote for all the disenfranchised in the country

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:07 #

      Now that’s a really interesting perspective that never occurred to me before. Thanks :)

      • SidevieW April 23, 2012 at 18:17 #

        As a lifelong protestor it actually didn’t change who I voted for, just let me vote only on my own behalf

  9. SchmidleysScribbling April 22, 2012 at 17:04 #

    How exciting to be part of history in the making. Tory Boy hasn’t changed. Does he still like graham crackers?

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:16 #

      Is THAT what they look like?? I hear them mentioned on tv but I’ve never known what they look like. And it just occurred to me that I could have Googled them long ago and saved myself some sleepless nights. Just did: they are not quite the same.

      Tory Boy is holding a Tennis Biscuit, which is coconut flavoured and square. What are graham crackers made of, and where did they get the name? I’ll be back in a Wiki.

      Ahh…interesting…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_cracker

      It was years before I discovered that a gram cracker was spelt ‘graham’; we pronounce that spelling as ‘gray-am’. I also had to use the American spelling of ‘grey’ to make that clear. I should write a post on US/UK pronunciation – don’t even get me started on ‘meer’ (mirror)… :)

  10. lanceleuven April 22, 2012 at 17:07 #

    Wow. Great tale, thanks for sharing. It must have been incredible to be part of such a momenotus day. And to know it as well.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:17 #

      Yes, we don’t often appreciate that we are part of an historic event, but there was no doubting this one.

  11. viveka April 22, 2012 at 17:09 #

    Wow … what a fantastic thing to have taken part in – a big step mankind. Love your story .. about the journey.

  12. gigihawaii April 22, 2012 at 18:15 #

    I think it is incredible that such long lines of voters were present on that momentous day. Here in Hawaii, voting is spotty at best. Lots of people here lack enthusiasm for election day, no matter who is running for office. Sad.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:19 #

      Believe it or not, even by the second election apathy had begun to creep in amongst the newly-enfranchised SA voters…I guess that’s human nature: give us what we want and then we move on.

  13. restlessjo April 22, 2012 at 20:20 #

    Fabulous story, well told Tilly. A day to remember indeed!

  14. grannymar April 22, 2012 at 20:34 #

    You were making history. We need that kind of enthusiasm for casting a vote here in the UK, what a difference it would make.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:20 #

      Tremendous! We are all enthusiastic voters in this house.

  15. kateshrewsday April 22, 2012 at 21:29 #

    Amazing post, Tilly. I remember following all of this from afar:amazing to think you were right at its heart.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:21 #

      Incredible. A real honour, if I’m honest.

  16. jmgoyder April 23, 2012 at 00:40 #

    Incredible story

  17. Al April 23, 2012 at 02:25 #

    Great story, Tilly Bud. I have never missed a national election vote since I was first eligible in 1964. It is the most precious thing we own.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:26 #

      I was itching to vote when I turned 18 but then we emigrated and I was ineligible to vote in SA until 1994. Can’t believe I forgot to say that it was my first time voting, too.

      One of our proudest moments was going to vote with Tory Boy, his first time. :)

  18. introvertedblogger April 23, 2012 at 04:19 #

    You have such a clear and distinct memory of this extremely important day. It makes me realise I take days like voting for granted.

  19. Perfecting Motherhood April 23, 2012 at 06:57 #

    What a great piece of history to be part of! And it’s great for your son to have been able to witness that. Is that where he got his taste for politics?

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:30 #

      It’s possible. However, we talk politics a LOT in this house, so it could simply be osmosis.

  20. sarsm April 23, 2012 at 10:39 #

    I love this post. Do you think Tory boys love of politics may have started on that day?

    I hope the Germany ticket works out for you.

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:35 #

      Me too, but don’t hold your breath…

  21. bluebee April 23, 2012 at 12:08 #

    It was a great day, Tilly, and the mood, one of joy and hope. I don’t recall there being any delays due to non-existent ballot papers at the school where we voted, but do remember standing in the queue for quite a few hours – it was pretty festive :)

    • Tilly Bud April 23, 2012 at 15:36 #

      Where were you? Some places were fine, I know; others never received any ballots at all.

      • bluebee April 23, 2012 at 23:56 #

        We voted at Sharonlead Primary School near Olivedale. How frustrating to queue all day and not be able to vote, and particularly for the people who had never had the opportunity before.

  22. barb19 April 23, 2012 at 23:35 #

    Wow – to be a part of something so momentous, and actually be a part of history, is something that will stay with you for life. btw, I remember Helen Suzman in that movie.

    • Tilly Bud April 27, 2012 at 09:31 #

      There was a great skit of that movie in an advert for soap, I think; probably Imperial Leather. I was a child but I still remember it.

      There’s a riot going on in the Winter Palace and Rasputin runs up to the Czar and Czarina and cries, ‘Sire! The peasants are revolting!’ The Czar wrinkles his nose and replies, ‘And so are you, Rasputin, so are you.’

      Classic.

  23. eof737 May 2, 2012 at 21:39 #

    Great photo. ;-)

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