I am sure many wonder what the title means so let me explain. DA stands for Democratic Alliance, it is the main opposition party (the party currently in power is called the ANC – African National Congress) and this is also where Victoria works. Soweto is a township near Johannesburg (it actually stands for SOuth WEst Township). A rally in this case is not a race but rather a meeting organised by the DA to promote one of their candidate Mumsi Maimane. He is campaigning for the main province in South Africa ‘Gauteng’ – basically Johanesburg area. There are 9 provinces in South Africa, each has its own political representatives and parliament. On top of of this there is a national structure formed by the president and his team. It is similar in some ways to the US way of governing. That is for the political background.
So last week end, we went to this rally with Victoria and her friend Natasha who is an MP (Member of Parliament) for the DA. Arriving in Soweto, you definitely feel more in Africa by looking at who lives there and how. South Africa has such an unequal society where a small part of the population is wealthy but the majority of the people struggle to survive. We start going to the meeting point and greet people on the way. Sometimes you will have a complete stranger coming to give you a hug, or asking to take a picture with you – takes a bit of time to get used to this vibe where you represent such a symbol. The DA organises buses so people who live in remote areas can attend. I think at the end there was about 6000 people attending the event.
When we were just chatting with some DA members, I start feeling someone punching me gently on the shoulder. Nothing hurtful but definitely weird and we are still in South Africa so I turn around quite quickly to deal with it – was not too happy about that. What a surprise when I see a black woman, in her forties and she doesn’t stop her punches when I look at her. Have to say that was a bit awkward but when I looked at her she was smiling and wanted to give me a hug. You can’t really say no so I do hug her and then she leaves. Found out a bit later that this is a way to say thank you for being here. Not many whites attend these events, they still believe it is not safe or worth going. Shame because it makes a massive difference to these people seeing whites supporting them, just by being here you show that you care.
Mmunsi speech was ok, a great orator and he put on a very African accent when speaking in Soweto so he could reach people’s heart. Now let s be honest, most of the people come for the free food, T shirts and the opportunity to dance and have a good time. Nothing wrong with that but best not to be naive. They don’t really understand politics and their main preoccupation is to feed their families. Still Africans have a strong sense of community and will not hesitate to support a cause. In that case, the DA represents one alternative to maybe change their lives.
We spent the rest of the week end in Pretoria (South Africa capital by the way, not Johannesburg like many people think). Pretoria is about 45min drive from Joburg, for some reason I had a negative prejudice on it but it turned out to be very nice. Natasha lives there with her husband Clyde. She gave us a very nice tour and the good thing about politicians is they know a lot about history and therefore are excellent tour guides 🙂 Beside seeing the president building and several part of town, we also enjoyed the famous purple trees ‘Jacaranda’. They are so cool: all purple flowers coming at spring for a few weeks, they look surreal.