Big turnout in South African elections
Voters express frustration with ANC, but a large turnout favors the ruling party.
Diepsloot, South Africa
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
They began arriving before dawn, hours before the Diepsloot polling station opened. They defied the chilly cloudy autumn morning for their chance to tell the ruling African National Congress (ANC) just what they were thought of them.
"It's all about hope," says Ngwako Makgaba, a social worker who works with AIDS patients. "In 1999 and 2004, it felt just like a formality to vote. But this time, I think it's about change."
"The fact that America voted in the first black president in the US was thrilling to people here. That has motivated young people here, that we can do it [make changes] as well," says Mr. Makgaba.
Why the big turnout?
Around the country, voting was peaceful, and voter turnout was on track to be the highest since 1994, when South Africans voted out the pro-apartheid National Party and ushered in majority rule under the ANC's leader Nelson Mandela.
High turnout could favor the ANC, since the vast majority of South Africa's population are poor and black, and while voters criticize the ANC for failing to deliver on its election promises, they see the ANC as the strongest voice for their demands.
The higher turnout seems to be driven as much by public enthusiasm for (or revulsion toward) the ANC's new populist leader, Jacob Zuma, as it is by a palpable desire for dramatic change, a sentiment expressed by all social and economic levels here.
"We are struggling here, we are hungry, we need a better life," says Francinah Mohale, a jobless mother from Diepsloot, who says she has been searching for work for nearly three years. "Some people don't have homes, they live in shacks. The drains are blocked. The streets are filthy. There is no work. This government has to create jobs, to build more schools, to make a better life for all."
Pre-election polls, conducted by Ipsos Markinor, show that the ANC will get about 65 percent of the vote, but fall short of a two-thirds majority that allows it to dominate the parliament now. Parties that cater to the middle class, both black and white, such as the Democratic Alliance and the newly formed Congress of the People (COPE) (a split-off from the ANC) are likely to gain roughly 11 percent and 9 percent respectively.
Urban frustration with ANC