The first result last night was from Robben Island, where Mr Mandela was incarcerated for so many years. It cast 55 votes for the African National Congress, giving it a 73-per-cent score. After most polling stations closed at 9pm, results were being processed in Pretoria. Turn-out appeared to be high and a reliable indication of the final result - which could see the ANC gain a two-thirds majority - is expected this morning.
Early yesterday two people died in apparently politically motivated shootings in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. A hoax bomb was detonated by security forces north-east of Johannesburg.
But in comparison with the first multi-race elections, in 1994, when 18 people died in incidents during polling, the atmosphere of yesterday's provincial and national ballot was overwhelmingly calm.
Around the country South Africans queued patiently for hours, with the same eagerness as in 1994. But this time they spoke of issues, such as joblessness and crime, rather than merely the euphoria of having the freedom to vote.
The Western Cape provincial election will be decisive for the the New National Party - successor of the old apartheid-era party - which has governed the area for the past five years.
Similarly, the Inkatha Freedom Party appears threatened by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.Conversely, in the former Transkei, which has produced the ruling party's leading figures, it is the ANC which faces a threat from the United Democratic Movement.
Most of all the election marks the end of the Mandela era, in which the accent was on racial reconciliation. He is to be succeeded on 16 June by the ANC president, Thabo Mbeki.
The election - in which, controversially for such a crime-ridden society, prisoners voted - also marks the return to prominence of Winnie Mandela, the retiring president's ex-wife, who was briefly disgraced for her role in the death of a township teenager. There is speculation that Mr Mbeki, an intellectual who lacks populist appeal, will give her a role in the new administration.
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