Count chaos delays ANC's triumph

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The Independent Online
THE African National Congress was heading for a landslide victory in the South African elections last night, according to a computer projection based on limited early poll returns. Johannesburg's Radio 702, which has accurately predicted South African elections in the past, forecast that the ANC would win 62 per cent of the vote and the National Party 20 per cent.

These predictions were based on partial results from eight out of South Africa's nine new provinces but the station's statistical expert warned it was too early to predict the result with confidence.

If casting votes in the South Africa election was problematic, counting them turned out to be a shambles, delaying until today, or possibly even Monday, a final official result. Last night the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Judge Johan Kriegler, said he was cutting through the red tape of some of the safeguards in the count to speed up the process. He gave assurances that this would not affect the fairness of the election.

At some counting stations ballot boxes failed to arrive; in many others, there were problems squaring the number of ballot boxes with reports from polling stations; in the Eastern Cape tellers went on strike for more pay. The most serious incidents included allegations of ballot boxes being tampered with and, in Johannesburg, there were scuffles between party workers after claims that huge numbers of blank ballot papers had been found in a car.

The first trickle of results from the IEC showed that in the Western Cape, around Cape Town, the National Party and the ANC were neck and neck. This was something of a blow to the former ruling party which had hoped to take the province easily. Earlier results from the Orange Free State, Eastern Transvaal and the North West Province indicated landslides for the ANC. Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC Secretary-General, said: 'We are poised to emerge with a handsome victory and I predict we will get more than 60 per cent.'

The mood of the day was best summed up by a young black teller in Cape Town lying under a tree waiting for his counting station to open. Wearily, he told a TV interviewer: 'I'm ready to make history.'

The heads of the Commonwealth, the European Union and the Organisation of African Unity missions issued a joint statement yesterday declaring the elections to have been free, though they were not prepared yet officially to deem them fair.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Emeka Anyaoku, said that the huge turnout at the polls was testimony to the commitment of South African voters to freedom, and said that he looked forward to the country's imminent return to the Commonwealth 'after 33 long years of strife'.

Apartheid passes, page 11