7 May 2014

South Africans Turn Up in Their Thousands to Cast Ballots On Election Day

Photo: Werner Beukes/Sapa
Voters wait to cast their ballots in troubled Bekkersdal on the West Rand.

Johannesburg — Thousands of South Africans queued for hours to cast their vote in the country's fifth democratic election. The day went relatively smoothly, although some unrest overshadowed the election.

Covered in a warm jacket and African National Congress (ANC) scarf around her neck, Mampi Maluleke is the first in line.

A woman in her 60s, Maluleke left her home at 5 a.m., she was determined to be the first person to cast a ballot in this year's election. She does not hide her jubilation, "I feel like I could fly and I am so excited that I lived till this day when I voted," she tells DW.

She said her children were also excited. "I told them to vote for the ANC since I know it will help us one day."

Maluleke was just one of 25 million registered South Africans voters who turned out across the country, queuing for hours to exercise their democratic right to cast their ballot.

Not all South Africans are as euphoric as Maluleke. Groups of people in Johannesburg tell DW they fear their vote will have little influence on the future direction of the country. Others, though, say change can only come about when people cast their vote and chose the leader they believe in.

'Voting for change'

Among them is 23-year-old Phumelani Khoza, a supporter of Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party. He hopes his vote will bring about change and a new South Africa.

"I would like to see people being [treated] equally. I would like to see the issue of inequality being addressed properly. I would like to see people's dignity being given back to them," Khoza says.

The ANC has failed to properly address the issue of land seizures, Khoza tells DW. "They promised to give back 30 percent of the land within 20 years." Twenty years have passed, he added "but only 7 percent has been given back to the rightful owners."

The issue of land seizures, carried out by the apartheid regime, has been at the core of the EFF's election campaign. In the lead up to the vote, firebrand leader Julius Malema promised, if elected, he would speed up the process of giving the land back to its rightful black South African owners, property which was taken from them and given to minority white farmers during the apartheid years.

Cheryl Mageza, a young mother living in Johannesburg and a Democratic Alliance opposition party supporter, says she would like to see the current government voted out of office.

"I voted for change for my generation and for my son's generation."

'Confidence in the people'

Recent opinion polls indicated the ANC may garner more than 60 percent of the vote. Casting his ballot at the Hitekane Primary School polling station, Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of the ANC, said he was confident the ANC would have a landslide victory.

"I have deep confidence in our people. Our people know who they want to run this country. I can smell victory. Victory is at hand and victory is certain," Ramaphosa told DW.

But, the election was not without incident. Local media reported one temporary polling station in the township of Bekkersdal, south west of Johannesburg, was burned down, while police cars were pelted with stones less than 12 hours before the polls opened.

The area has been subject to intermittent unrest since last year, as locals protest a lack of public services in the city. They vowed to boycott Wednesday's election.

National broadcaster SABC reported Wednesday that a further polling station in the area had been burned down, other media outlets say that figure could be as high as three.

Despite the unrest, Wednesday's ballot went quite smoothly. Long queues and subsequent delays were reported in some parts of Guateng and Western Cape provinces. South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission says 95 percent of polling stations were opened on time.

Preliminary results from Wednesday's election are due on May 8.

Editor Jessie Wingard

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