De Lille on democracy, hope and losing to the ANC. Again

Patricia de Lille takes a seat, far away from the other political parties, watching as the overseas voter results appear on the screen at the IEC results centre in Pretoria.

Her distance from the other party leaders and officials on Thursday afternoon is easily noticeable, not just physically, but also in her calm demeanour. Having won only 1,2% of the national vote, with more than 40% of total votes already counted, De Lille says she is feeling positive, and is looking forward to being ‘part of reconstructing the country”.

De Lille says these elections have been characteristic of a nation in transition. 

‘It says so much. Our political landscape is changing.”

But De Lille clearly understands that the African National Congress, with whom she has openly battled, will likely win a landslide victory once again, even though the majority of their supporters are among the country’s poorest people.

‘It is an African continental phenomenon,” she says, ‘to keep voting for a party who brought about liberation. But that blind loyalty is beginning to wane. The split of the ANC has been good for South Africa, and good for the continent.”

She is not fearful of ANC leader Jacob Zuma becoming the president in a few days. ‘We have all the rights in the Constitution that Zuma cannot take away. One person is not so powerful.”

Another positive factor to come out of this election, said De Lille, is the media’s role in voter education and promoting voter interest in policies when making their decisions. But personalities still play too large a part.

‘It is an overall part of democracy that must still develop in South Africa, where people vote on policies rather than personalities.”

For De Lille, the campaign had been what she a called ‘a journey of rediscovery of [her] country”.

But she also described the ugly side of the campaign.

‘Our democracy has been privatised. This is not an excuse, but the party with resources can get their message out there. We need to put a cap on election spending. In a developing country like ours we can’t spend so much on campaigning.”

With political parties emphasising the importance of the youth vote but still having to deal with a largely apathetic younger population, De Lille has her own ideas about motivating young South Africans to become more socially and politically aware.

‘In the past, young people mobilised around the struggle. Now young people themselves need to identify issues that they can get other youth involved in. There are different classes of young people, and you need to find issues that cut across these class divides.”

As the glowing orange numbers in the ANC column on the screen tick up with every glance, De Lille smiles quietly. ‘We are too critical of ourselves,” she says. ‘It’s only been fifteen years”.

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