South African electoral officials started counting ballots as voting stations closed in the nation’s fifth post-apartheid election that is set to extend the 20-year rein of the ruling African National Congress.
In the first results from 0.4 percent of the 22,263 voting districts counted, the ANC led with 64 percent, according to the Independent Electoral Commission. Most of the results are expected by tomorrow and a final outcome will be published on May 10.
The ANC faced 28 rivals in today’s contest for the 400 seats in the national legislature, which elects the president. The main challenger is Helen Zille’s Democratic Alliance, which is forecast to win 22 percent of the vote, compared with the ANC’s 63 percent, according to an opinion poll from Ipsos released on May 2. Five years ago, the DA won 17 percent support and the ANC 66 percent.
The ruling party is set to retain support even as a graft scandal taints the image of President Jacob Zuma, who pledged to create 6 million “job opportunities,” build 1 million homes for the poor and improve education and health care over the next five years. A quarter of South Africa’s workforce is unemployed, more than 10 million people lack proper shelter and public outrage is mounting over government corruption.
“The government has been good to us, but there are issues that I am not happy about,” said Theodora Seutloadi, 71, who cast her vote in Orlando West township, near Johannesburg. “So many of our children have completed high school but they are sitting at home with us unable to find jobs. Maybe our votes will motivate the government to take better care of us, especially the children.”
Voter turnout was high in urban areas across the country, with few serious incidents reported, IEC Chairwoman Pansy Tlakula told reporters in Pretoria today.
Protests in five districts delayed the start of voting, Mosotho Moepya, the chief electoral officer, said earlier. Long lines formed outside voting stations in townships in Johannesburg and Cape Town, with people waiting through the night to secure a place near the front.
The rand gained 0.4 percent against the dollar to 10.4622 as of 11:27 p.m. in Johannesburg.
The ANC is credited for bringing an end to white minority rule, which denied the black majority the right to vote, restricted their ownership of land and deprived them of a decent education.
The party has shored up support by paying welfare grants to about 16 million people, up from 2.7 million in 1994, and increasing access to state housing, water and electricity.
“I always vote ANC,” said Daisy Manaka, 46, who cast her ballot at a school in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, and expressed unhappiness over her two sons being unable to find work after finishing school. “The other parties, I can’t trust them.”
The nation’s graft ombudsman alleged in a March report that Zuma unduly benefited from 215 million rand ($21 million) in state spending to renovate his private rural home in Nkandla, which included a swimming pool and amphitheater. Zuma, 72, who is running for a second and final term, denies any wrongdoing.