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South Africans vent frustration, this time in municipal elections

In the fourth municipal elections since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africans voters say they are disappointed with politics in general.

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"How am I expected to pay rental for my shop, raise fees, and pay for food when the police are harassing me daily?” complains another resident of Alexandra, Vutivi Chauke.

Security guard Njabulo Mkhize said he would simply vote to fulfill his democratic duty, but not with any enthusiasm for any party. "My company allowed me to go and vote, but there is no reason to make me feel happy after voting," he said.

If there is one common theme that unites South African voters this election, it is that voters – both black and white – feel that the current government has neglected them.

At a polling station in Bramley Primary School, in Johannesburg’s northern Bramley suburb, nonagenarian retired Navy volunteer Bunny Marks said the ANC government cared little about the needs of the elderly. “Elderly people have been neglected for too long, and this has to come to an end today with my vote,” he said. “I could have stayed at home just like any other elderly person, but because there is something wrong, I'm here so early in order to change our plight.”

"If I can't change this gross abuse of old people, then who will?” he asked.

Zita Soicher wouldn’t tell a reporter who she was voting for, but hinted that she would not vote for the same party she had voted for in the past. "My daughter is married in Boston, the US, where I believe she is enjoying better service delivery,” says Mrs. Soicher. "But here in Johannesburg, we are suffering tremendously in the hands of uncaring and corrupt government officials.”

In the ANC stronghold of Diepsloot – which went from being an instant squatter camp in 1994 to a fully functioning township of 175,000 residents, with running water and electricity, as well as a police station and fire house today – voting queues were long but fast-moving. If Diepsloot voters – most of them black and working class – vote as they have in the past, a high turnout would likely signal a landslide victory for the ruling ANC.

But in the wealthy and mainly white northern neighborhood of Lonehill, where hundreds of voters queued up to vote, the lines are moving slowly, an indication of either bad planning or a deliberate effort to keep down votes in non-ANC areas.

“Three of the polling stations in my areas are going very smoothly,” says John Mendelsohn, a Johannesburg city counselor in the northern suburbs who represents the Democratic Alliance opposition party. “But at the Lonehill College, the IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] has slipped up very badly. They haven’t put in a system to have a quick in-and-out for voters. This is one of my key areas of support, so while it’s not that I’ll lose the election, but at this rate I’m not going to get the scale of voting that I expected.”

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