Older voters were beating the born-free generation to the polls in troubled townships in South Africa’s fifth democratic elections on Wednesday.
Police and military kept a check on simmering tension.
After electoral tents were torched in Bekkersdal on the eve of the elections, the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) said it was relieved that voting was going ahead in the Gauteng township, and the other flash points of Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape and Malamulele in Limpopo.
As military vehicles patrolled the streets of Bekkersdal, first-time voter, Kgaogelo Machakela, 22, said he hoped his vote would lead to change. He was still deciding which opposition party to support.
“The ANC is not doing anything for us. I have not decided who I’m voting for, but I will not vote for the ANC,” he said.
Machakela was part of a minority of young voters. The IEC’s electoral officer for Gauteng Masego Sheburi hoped those born after the fall of apartheid would come out in numbers later.
“It is a concern, but it is still early days. We are hoping the youth will come out later in the day.”
Voting began more slowly than expected as 11 percent (2449) of the country’s 22,263 voting stations experienced delays, which the IEC blamed on a combination of technical problems and human error.
“The first hour of an election is like riding a wild horse,” Western Cape provincial electoral officer Courtney Sampson said, before adding that he hoped long queues later, a usual election feature here, could be avoided.
But despite the slow start political leaders were out in force early to cast their ballots. First to cast her vote was Helen Zille who told reporters in Rondebosch, Cape Town: “I hope the DA will grow in every single province,” adding that she expected a surge in support in the Eastern Cape.
In Sterkspruit in the province, the ANC launched an official complaint with the IEC after its agents were turned away from polling stations there.
President Jacob Zuma voted at Ntolwane Primary School in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, the village that became campaign catch phrase as the opposition equated it with state corruption, and urged voters to turn out en masse before predicting: “The results will be very good.”
ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa returned to his roots in Soweto to vote in full view of press cameras and said the ruling party was “going to move South Africa forward”.
After announcing last month that he would not support the ANC, Archbishop Desmond Tutu cast his ballot at Milnerton High School, Cape Town, and teased reporters who asked which opposition party he decided to back.
“My vote is my secret,” Tutu replied.
“Asked how his vote compared to the 1994 general elections, he added: “I am 20 years older.”
Embattled Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi paid no obvious party allegiance when he voted in Morningside Manor, Johannesburg.
“I’ve voted in every election. I’m a veteran. If we were to stay away from voting it would mean we were completely irresponsible,” Vavi told reporters after casting his ballot.
“South Africa is a maturing democracy and we must celebrate that,” he said.
Western Cape ANC leader Marius Fransman, voting in Kuils River, said he had not given up hope of wresting the province back from the Democratic Alliance.
“Look, I think it’s always a daunting task… The ANC has never outright won the Western Cape, however, in 2004 we came in at 46 percent.”
The IEC said strong security measures were put in place in gang-ridden Manenberg on the Cape Flats, where the ANC and DA were competing for crucial coloured votes.
Chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said the last voting stations opened around 11am after delays caused because staff arrived late, voting materials were delivered late, and buildings designated as polling stations were locked.
Moepya said voting was proceeding “smoothly, peacefully, and briskly”. He confirmed that military vehicles were deployed to Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, following ANC faction-fighting in recent weeks.
There was more tension in the air in the Evergreen informal settlement in Springs, Gauteng. State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele was heckled when he urged residents there to allow delayed voting to go ahead.
One young resident told a Sapa journalist “Those who vote, we are going to find them at night”.
In Seshego, Limpopo, IEC officials and police stepped in to stop a slanging match between Economic Freedom Fighters and African National Congress supporters at the Mponegele Primary School.
Supporters of the fledgling EFF had accused the ANC of lobbying for votes by handing out T-shirts.
EFF leader Julius Malema arrived a while later accompanied by his grandmother, and commented that voters were smart enough to know you cannot “eat [a] T-shirt”. – Sapa