South African election passes off relatively peacefully

First election for seven-million-strong generation born post-apartheid

Voters queue to cast their ballots in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township.   Photograph: Reuters

Voters queue to cast their ballots in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township. Photograph: Reuters


South Africa’s fifth general election was held under largely peaceful circumstances yesterday, with only isolated incidents of violence and electoral malpractice recorded around the country.

The day marked the first time South Africa’s seven million strong “born free” generation – those born after the end of apartheid in 1994 – were eligible to vote.

This election has been touted by some commentators and opposition parties as the most competitive poll in the post-apartheid era.

They maintain the ruling African National Congress party is in danger of securing less than 60 per cent of the vote for the first time in its electoral history because of its inability to tackle corruption, deliver services effectively and create employment.

ANC confident
However, the ANC yesterday insisted it was on course to receive a resounding endorsement from the estimated 25.3 million registered voters to lead for another five-year term.

Speaking at his voting station at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal province, South African president Jacob Zuma predicted “very good results” after receiving an ecstatic welcome upon arriving to cast his ballot at the Ntolwane Primary School.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party is hoping to make significant progress at this poll and bring its support base up to about 24 percent of the electorate, a rise of nearly 7 per cent on the last general election in 2009.

DA leader Helen Zille voted in Cape Town. When asked how her party might do in the polls, she said: “We will see at the end of the day. I don’t like to speculate. Our goal in this election is to do better than in the last one.”

A number of elections in the past have been marred by widespread political violence, and in the months leading up to this poll anti-government protests erupted across the country. At least five occurred every day for the past year, according to police statistics.

But a heavy security presence in many potential flash points stopped anything untoward from happening yesterday, in most cases. However, sporadic protests did occur in areas previously thought of as peaceful, national police chief Riah Phiyega confirmed.

In total 97 people were arrested for election-related crimes and 131 cases registered, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure said yesterday.

Polling stations closed at 9pm, and the election result is expected to be known by Sunday at the latest.