of favourite sons and distant cousins

Next year South Africa faces a general election.

The absolute certainties are that the ANC will win a (probably reduced) majority in the national assembly and the opposition Democratic Alliance will win a majority in the Western Cape provincial legislature. After that, all bets are off.

Before 1994 South Africa was divided into the four provinces of The Cape, Transvaal, Natal and the Orange Free State. There were also a large number of bantustans. Both the old provinces and the bantustans  were abolished by the 1994 interim constitution and a new system of nine provinces was set up. In the time since the provincial boundaries have become set in stone. The ANC has always controlled all the provincial legislatures except KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. It looks like Gauteng, the province formerly known as Johannesberg, will be in play next year for the first time.

And then the story gets interesting. There is some talk of the DA running their strongest possible candidate, Hellen Zille, their national leader, a former mayor of Cape Town, former World Mayor of the Year,  and the current premier of the Western Cape. If the DA took Gauteng, or even gave the ANC a run for their money there, it would be a political earthquake. The earthquake would be magnified by Zille’s ethnicity. She is a very white former anti-apartheid journo who would be running in a very black province.

Interstate politician transfers are very rare in Australia, although one is being attempted at the next federal election. And Australian and American political observers would become mildly hysterical over the premier of one province running for premier of another province.

9 thoughts on “of favourite sons and distant cousins

  1. Indeed, I would think a lot of American voters would be at least perturbed if you told them “The Premier of your Province is going to run for Premier of the next Province over.”

    Mention the metric system and give a simultaneous translation in French while you’re at it.

    PS: My first reaction to Helen Zille’s name was “She’s been around a long time!”, then realised I was conflating her with both Helen Suzman and Dr Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert…


  2. I really should have said ‘Gauteng, the province formerly known as Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Bloemfontein’. It’s not just the next province over, its a couple of provinces away. It’s like the the governor of New York running for governor of Texas.


  3. It’s not all that unheard of at the congressional level in the US…James Buckley, the last US Senator elected on a third party line (1970 for the Conservative Party of New York against both a Democrat and a liberal Republican), later ran for election in Connecticut, and there is talk that Scott Brown, Massachusetts’ junior senator until his defeat last November, may run for New Hampshire’s Senate seat in 2014. I believe the only constitutional requirement is residence in the state on election day. Dick Cheney notably changed his residence from Texas to Wyoming (a state he’d formerly represented in the US House) in 2000 in order to make the Bush-Cheney ticket eligible to win Texas’ electoral votes, as electors may not vote for two residence of their own state. At that same election, Hillary Clinton carpetbagged into New York to be elected to the Senate.

    At state level, most states require substantial in-state residence in order to win a seat. The only person I can think of who was governor of two different states was Sam Houston, who was Governor of both Tennessee and Texas (in addition to serving as a US Representative from Tennessee, a US Senator from Texas, two terms as President of Texas, and one term as a member of the Republic of Texas lower house). This means the scenario hasn’t happened since 1859.

    James Shields served as Senator from three state in the nineteenth century (Illinois, then Minnesota, then Missouri), though I don’t believe any of them were by popular election.

    Howard Callaway won a plurality in the 1966 Georgia gubernatorial election (Georgia law threw the election to the Democratic-dominated legislature and he was defeated), then 14 later ran for Senate in Colorado, where he had moved four or five years earlier.

    So, while it’s quite unlikely to happen in the States, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.


  4. Alan: I would rather say: the province consisting of the urban areas in the centre of the former Transvaal, including both Johannesburg and Pretoria. It was briefly known as “Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging”. (Bloemfontein is still in (Orange) Free State, whose borders did not change, unlike all other provinces.

    In relation to the Western Cape, it is almost at the other end of the country.


  5. Rob Hulls, Deputy Premier of Victoria 2007-10, had been a MHR representing a Qld seat 1990-93. (He defeated Bob Katter Sr and was in turn defeated by Bob Katter Jr – a Cromwell/ Clinton-like interregnum interrupting the normal hereditary succession).

    I had some vague recollection that Rob Borbidge, Premier of Qld 1995-98, had run unsuccessfully as a National candidate for a State seat in Victoria, but Wikipedia doesn’t mention it and he must have been young.


  6. JD: Ouch)

    I had always thought that Australian states had unfortunate names until I encountered the Eastern, Western and Northern Capes.

    Tom: Zille is part of the same tradition as Suzman and Van Zyl Slabbert, despite the ANC calling her ‘madam baas’ all the time.


  7. As the world watches Nelson Mandela’s last days, everyone is into South Africa. (Tonight, CNN even follows Anthony Bourdain there.)

    But no one ever mentions that apartheid is the most glaring proof of the failings of winner-take-all voting: the 1948 election that started apartheid rule was a wrong-winner election, where the National Party got fewer votes but more seats than the United Party. And then in 1953 the United Party+Labour Party again got more votes but fewer seats than the National Party.


  8. Wilf @7: very true, although it may have had more to do with malapportionment than with FPTP. I don’t have the figures, so I don’t know. Either way it is a compelling example in favour of reform.


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