Buyekezwa took a deep breath as she stepped into the university cafeteria. Never had she seen it so full. The sight of all the crowded tables made her nervous. She recognised nobody. This is a good thing, she told herself, while moving deeper into the room. I’m not here to have fun, she thought.

With her heart racing she pushed passed the queue at the cigarette vending machine and stopped next to the biggest table she could find. She rummaged in her bag and took out her pamphlets – a thick bundle held together with an elastic band.

By now a few people in the room had noticed her T-shirt. A few were pointing; Buyekezwa felt a stab of panic at the thought that she may have put it on back-to-front. But, no, she glanced down at her chest – the blue and white letters were plain to see, just like the pamphlet: ‘Vote DA on May 7th. Your chance to WIN’.

For a brief moment Buyekezwa felt self-conscious; generally she did not enjoy being in the spotlight. And yet here she was drawing attention to herself in public, with a party political slogan across her chest. Would people object to her being political? Would they judge her for being black and DA? The questions nipped at her even as she shoved them to the back of her mind and introduced herself to the group in front of her.

At first nobody said anything. Some looked up from their meals, some averted their eyes. A couple at the far end of the table laughed and shook their heads as if they could not believe their eyes.

“I’m not going to bite,” said Buyekezwa, forcing a smile, even though she felt insulted by the frosty reception. “All I want is your vote.”

“We’re not political,” snapped the closest student, glaring at her from beneath a mop of curly brown hair. “And if I was, I wouldn’t vote DA.” He picked up the pamphlet she had put in front of him and handed it back.

So far so bad, Buyekezwa thought to herself. She had hoped for some lively debate, maybe a few questions about the DA’s campaign promise to create jobs and fight corruption. The last thing she had expected from a crowd of South African students was complete disinterest.

Everybody is political, is what she wanted to say to the guy with the curly brown hair. Everybody is either trying to make a better life or a better world, or just a different world. Chasing somebody away from a cafeteria table was political. But instead of voicing her opinion on this matter Buyekezwa gathered up her pamphlets and said nothing.

“Wait a moment,” said a voice behind her. A hand reached out and picked up a pamphlet off the table. “I’ll have one of those.”

Buyekezwa had to turn and take a step back to see who it was. This time she was pleasantly surprised: standing right behind her was Jerome Sedgewick. Dark wavy hair, a week-old whisper of stubble, and eyes that seemed lit-up from the inside. Sedgewick was the undisputed Mr Heart-throb of her political studies class, the only white guy rated a unanimous ‘Sexy As Hell’ by all her friends.

Buyekezwa was so surprised that it took a while before she realised Jerome had already asked her a question: “I said, ‘why are you doing this?’” He folded his arms and arched one eyebrow, inviting her reply.

“It’s my right,” she said, feeling a bit annoyed at the question. “I believe we need a strong opposition to the ANC. The ANC has had twenty years. Personally I don’t think too much has changed.” With that she took a step back, folded her arms, and arched an eyebrow just like he had done.

He smiled and dropped his head, as if considering her reply. Then in one quick movement he pulled off his sweater, revealing a familiar black, green and gold T-shirt. An ANC T-shirt that said: ‘Vote ANC on May 7th. A Better Life For All’. From his pocket he pulled a thick wad of ANC pamphlets and handed her one.

For a few seconds the room seemed to go quiet as they glared at each other across an invisible divide. The people at the table, who a second ago had completely ignored her, now crowded around or leant forward in their seats to see what would happen next.

“I would say things have changed quite a bit,” Jerome said, prompting a few giggles from the onlookers.

For an awkward moment Buyekezwa did not know what to say. She felt embarrassed and confused. Embarrassed because she had been caught off-guard by a man she liked; confused because things seemed strangely upside-down – she was a black DA supporter, he was white and ANC.

Like it or not she had to admit her political rival was right: clearly things had changed.

But the longer she stood there looking into Jerome’s twinkling blue eyes, the more she also felt strangely happy, as if she might laugh out loud, although she didn’t immediately know what was so funny. Then suddenly she did laugh, and so did Jerome, and before anybody really knew what was happening, everybody was laughing, because the whole situation was just funny. Just hilarious.

There was no other way to explain it really. South Africa was hilarious, and full of surprises. Just when you thought you had her all figured out, the country wriggled out from underneath you and leapt into the future. That was the beauty of politics.

Buyekezwa waited for the laughing to die down, took the ANC pamphlet out of Jerome’s hands, and replaced it with one of her own DA pamphlets.

“I was wondering when the opposition would arrive,” she said, winking, before walking away.

* * *

Tell us what you think: Could political difference stand in the way of a romance between Buyekezwa and Jerome?