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South Africans head to the polls

About 22,000 voting stations open for Wednesday's general election, which the ruling ANC is expected to win.

Last updated: 07 May 2014 05:59
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South Africans are heading to polling booths to vote in a general election that is expected to see the ruling African National Congress of President Jacob Zuma remain in power.

About 22,000 voting stations were opening on Wednesday at schools, places of worship, tribal authority sites and hospitals. Several dozen vehicles were also serving as mobile voting stations.

About 25 million South Africans, roughly half of the population, have registered to vote. That figure however includes only one-third of those eligible who are aged 18 or 19.

Arriving just after 6am this morning to vote at the Ohlange High Schol in the township Inanda, on the outskirts of Durban, where Nelson Mandela himself cast his ballot in 1994, Shandu Thabisile, said she was nervous to vote.

"I came here to vote because this is where Mandela voted all those years ago," Thabisile said.

Another first-time voter, Mbali Mduli, 18, told Al Jazeera: "I am here to cast my vote and try to make a difference. It is a exciting."

Local radio stations also reported that polling stations in Johannesburg, Cape Town had also opened on time.

For us, the right to vote is a coveted prize that was earned under difficult and painful circumstances.

South Africa's ruling ANC party,

"We're generally seeing a youth that is still quite disillusioned by the current political landscape in South Africa," Lauren Tracey, from the Institute for Security Studies, told Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa. "They don't feel as if their vote is going to make a difference."

Some young South Africans are calling for more jobs and a movement away from focusing on colour in the hiring process.

"If I could speak to President Zuma from a young, white man's perspective, I'd say, Mr President, you cannot use nationalistic undertones...you can't use race as an excuse any more," Jarrod Delport, who was born after apartheid, said. "It's time to move forward. If you are re-elected, it's time for jobs."

Delport said he understood why government policies had to favour black applicants due to the country's history, but wanted South Africa to see beyond colour.

Corruption in high places is also weighing heavily on the voters minds.

Zuma has also been engulfed in a scandal involving accusations that he used $20m in state funds for his private home. 

Right to vote

But while unease with Zuma has grown, it is not expected to shake core support for the ANC, which led the movement against white minority rule and has dominated politics since Nelson Mandela became president in South Africa's first all-race vote in 1994.

In the country's last election in 2009, the ANC party fell just short of a two-thirds majority.

Its main rivals this year are the Democratic Alliance, a centrist party led by Helen Zille, a former journalist and anti-apartheid activist, and the Economic Freedom Fighters, headed by Julius Malema, a former leader of the ruling party's youth league who wants to redistribute wealth to the poor.

Ronnie Kasrils, a former intelligence minister, urged people to spoil their ballots on Wednesday or vote for an opposition party.

But the ANC encouraged voters not to boycott the polls, citing the sacrifices of those who fought for democracy.

"For us, the right to vote is a coveted prize that was earned under difficult and painful circumstances," the ruling party said.

Nearly 2,000 military personnel will assist police in ensuring security during the election.

For coverage of Wednesday's election follow our LIVEBLOG, and Azad Essa on Twitter: @azadessa

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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