In the mixed-race “Malay Quarter” in central Cape Town — named for the residents descended from the Malaysian and Indonesian slaves brought to the city in the 17th and 18th centuries — joyous residents thronged the streets outside the polling stations.
In the affluent Atlantic seaboard suburb of Camps Bay, uniformed maids cheerfully made space so their white “madams” could wait with them in the long lines. And in a white blue-collar, mostly Afrikaner suburb on the edge of Table Bay, the queues moved quickest of all as the white group that implemented apartheid voted itself out of power with a grim — and ironic — efficiency.
Hours earlier, my first stop on that April day in 1994 was in the pre-dawn darkness to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s official residence in the white suburb of Bishopscourt. There I waited with other journalists to follow the Nobel laureate in a nervous convoy out of the upscale white neighborhood onto the rough roads of the black township of Gugulethu, where we watched Tutu as he was allowed to vote for the first time ever in his country of birth.
We’d done the Bishopscourt vigil before. More than four years earlier, on February 12, 1990, we’d waited on the expansive lawns of the elegant house for Mandela to address his first formal press conference after his release from more than 27 years in jail.