Making History Frances M. Beal introduces CrossRoads' "Building the New South Africa" section and describes the scene on the ground as millions of South Africans voted for the first time. Two analytic articles from South Africa -- written by leading members of the African National Congress and South African Communist Party -- comprise the heart of this special issue of CrossRoads. Along with excerpts from the ANC's Reconstruction and Development Program, these in-depth evaluations address the sweep and complexity of South Africa's history-making "transition of an unexpected type." In introducing these articles, I will focus on another aspect of South Africa's election: the outpouring of energy, joy and spirit that accompanied the balloting. Having had the privilege of spending six weeks in South Africa during this amazing time, I also want to offer a few personal observations about the significance of the South African drama. "Here we are -- voting! I am about two inches taller than before I came." The speaker was the diminutive Archbishop Desmond Tutu sporting a joyous smile as he emerged from a polling booth. Nelson Mandela, F.W. de Klerk and leaders of all political hues made statements and headlines as they cast their ballots in first free, all-race elections in South Africa's history. But it was in the cities and townships and the rural areas where history was really being made. The scene in the black township of Kwazekele on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province was typical. A column of people two miles long snaked around tumbledown shacks and up a rutted dirt road. Expecting a long wait, people had begun lining up at 5:00 a.m. Gloriously proud, the people rested on chairs or boxes or stood peacefully chatting with neighbors, as the line inched forward. In the middle of the queue, a middle-aged woman twirled a parasol as protection from the blistering sun. It was then 10:30 and she had been on line for five hours, stoically waiting to make her X next to the party of her choice. She said she would be willing to wait a lot longer, too. And wait longer she did, since this station was one of many that was overwhelmed by the turnout and ran out of ballots. A similar story of determination unfolded in a nearby rural farming area. This country village polling station was designed to serve a 10-mile radius, and some farmworkers arose as early as 3:00 a.m. to get to it. One woman was seen arriving in a wheel barrow. Many who voted there could neither read nor write -- some had never held a pen or pencil before -- but they were able to point to the party colors or the leader or say the name. I asked how people felt: "I felt happy," one 73-year- old woman leaning on a cane replied. "I felt proud," said one man. "I feel hope for a better future for our children," said one elderly Chinese man. Beneath these modest words was an unmistakable exultation that could be read in a gleaming eye or seen on a beaming, wrinkled face. The joyful spirit of millions could not be quashed despite the logistical chaos that reigned in many black areas. Some stations ran out of ballot papers or ink or pencils, some failed to open on time or -- in some of the former bantustans -- failed to open at all. The counting process was equally chaotic. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) responsible for running the elections and ensuring that they were free and fair came under a lot of criticism -- for ineptness, and consciously undermining the logistics as a means of keeping the ANC vote down. The vote counting procedure itself was incredibly time consuming. Each party (and there were up to 10 contending in some areas) had a representative at each table, the IEC had several people who did the counting, and there were independent monitors present as well. An IEC official would hold up each ballot and call out the party's name and show it to all these people in a sweep around the table. It took hours and hours to count votes this way. In the Eastern Cape votes from the white areas were counted first, and initially the National Party's total was close to the ANC's. But when the ballots from Kwazekele and the other Black townships began to be tallied the surge began. In the counting room the sound kept ringing out" "ANC! ANC! ANC! ANC! ANC!" It sounded like a partisan chant, but it wasn't. It was simply the votes from townships being counted. One ballot box from Kwazekele was typical: ANC-1,519; PAC-10; DP-1; NP-1. When all the hoopla was over, the ANC's mandate was clear. The Congress garnered 62.7 percent of the national vote and earned 252 out of the 400 National Assembly seats. They won outright in seven of the nine provinces and have significant minorities in the other two. The electoral process itself was extremely inclusive; there was a proportional representational system in which any party garnering at least one-half of one percent (55,000 votes) got a parliamentary seat and all parties with five percent were guaranteed a seat in the cabinet. CAMPAIGN ISSUES During the election campaign it had been violence that got most of the headlines. But the hidden story was the sophistication and extent of campaign discussion on basic political, social and economic issues. Apartheid's restrictions were crumbling and a tumult of new voices from the grassroots made themselves heard: a still-fragmented but growing women's movement, a gay and lesbian movement, advocates of civil liberties, and rural groups. Issues were raised that will move front-burner in the future: abortion rights, affirmative action, interpretations of the new Bill of Rights, the role of the newly established constitutional court, how to deal with customary law (traditions that have regulated many communities especially in the spheres of marriage and family, often stripping women of all rights). The vital issues of truly democratizing the police and security forces and dealing with the all-important land question were placed center-stage. These all became issues for millions; the campaign had a deep politicizing effect -- quite different from the sleep-inducing electoral process that we are most familiar with in the U.S. REGIONAL AND GLOBAL IMPACT The election's impact spills out from South Africa to affect the region and the entire world. Gugile Nkwinti, head of the ANC's election effort in the Eastern Cape, spoke of the ways "the apartheid regime committed atrocities in southern Africa and destabilized the region." Now the peoples of Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and all of Africa have an ally instead of a murderous opponent directing South Africa's foreign and military policy. More than symbolism is at work here: the ANC has promised to encourage the development of joint projects to develop regional water resources, electricity and energy supply, transport and telecommunications, and agricultural and food production. As these programs take shape, heavily industrialized South Africa can become a progressive powerhouse for the entire African continent. The new ANC government is also poised to assume a prominent role in global affairs. The apartheid regime was an international pariah; now President Nelson Mandela can speak to the world with unique moral and political authority on every issue facing humanity. South Africa will play a new role in all international institutions: the country has already rejoined the Commonwealth, membership in the Organization of African States is assured, a new role will be carved out at the United Nations. During a period when progressive movements worldwide have taken many beatings, it is uplifting to realize that a determined democratic force now governs an industrialized, powerful nation. Though I have been back in the U.S. for several weeks now, I feel many times a day that I'm still in the grip of my experience in South Africa. And of all the vivid impressions that impacted me there, the joy of joys was being in a situation where the majority of people held nothing but the highest respect for South Africa's communists. So many members of the South African Communist Party gave their lives to end apartheid; veteran communists and thousands of new party members are now devoting themselves to the democratic tasks of the new era. Of the 252 ANC National Assembly members, 49 are members of the SACP and nine of these have been appointed to cabinet posts. As my co-editor Myesha Jenkins wrote in her election day letter in CrossRoads previous issue: What a time to be alive! Frances M. Beal and other Bay Area participants in the South Africa Media Project will report on their experience and lead a discussion on the complex political realities facing South Africa this July 9. The event will be a benefit for CrossRoads 1994 Fund Drive; donations of $10-25 (sliding scale) will be appreciated: Saturday, July 9, 2-5 p.m., 805 57th St. in Oakland; refreshments will be served. Call 510- 843-7495 for more information.