Record turnout predicted as South Africans head to polls

Scale of ANC victory will determine how bold a president Zuma will be

South African authorities are predicting a record turnout for tomorrow's general election, widely seen as the most important since the end of apartheid.

There are more than 23 million registered voters in the country of 50 million people, and the Independent Electoral Commission predicts that 80 per cent of them will cast their ballot. "We are expecting the largest voter turnout because a large number of people have shown interest in these elections," said the IEC's Brigalia Bam.

The result is not in doubt. The ANC leader Jacob Zuma will be the next president of South Africa. However today's ballot is the first major electoral test for the ruling African National Congress whose two-thirds majority is under threat from a breakaway party, Cope; the Democratic Alliance and a host of smaller parties. Mr Zuma was being typically bullish ahead of voting. "We expect that the people of this country will once again give the ANC a huge and decisive mandate," he told reporters yesterday.

Pictures of the extraordinary scenes that characterised South Africa's first democratic election in 1994 still adorn walls all over the country. The snaking queues of thousands of people who had been prevented from voting under apartheid are likely to be repeated this year although the weeks-long wait for results has been reduced, with official figures expected from Saturday.

Serious competition at the polls has drawn an expensive response from the ANC, which has spent an estimated £34m in a campaign which has sought to emphasise the power and popularity of the party. The party of Nelson Mandela, who although frail has been wheeled out for two election appearances, currently has 297 MPs in the 400-seat parliament. The scale of the party's victory will decide how bold any possible changes will be from a new president who is viewed with considerable unease by many. Markets in Africa's biggest economies reflected increased fears that Mr Zuma, who comes from the left wing of the party, may achieve a two-thirds mandate which would allow him to make changes to the constitution.

The contradictory pressures on the unpredictable president-in-waiting are reflected by his relationship with two key party figures: the country's influential Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and the controversial ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madizekela Mandela.

The former is a fiscal conservative whose popularity with business leaders means he must be retained and the latter is a fiery populist with strong Communist party backing. Mr Zuma is expected to find room for both of them in his post-election cabinet.

Senior figures from the business world have sought and received reassurances that Mr Manuel will remain in his post. Reports that he was set to resign after the departure of the former president Thabo Mbeki last year were enough to send markets and the rand into a steep decline.

"The one thing I know, and I have worked with Jacob Zuma for almost two decades, the one thing I know is that he will draw on highly skilled individuals," the Finance Minister said yesterday. "He wants to succeed. He is not going to set himself up for failure."

However, Mr Zuma is expected to make some populist appointments with party sources mentioning Winnie Mandela for a possible senior post. The 72-year-old has spent much of the past decade in the political wilderness after convictions for theft and fraud while head of the ANC Women's League. She was earlier found guilty of kidnapping and held to be an accessory to the killing of a 14-year-old boy, Stompie Seipei, who was targeted by her own vigilante bodyguard, the Mandela United Football Club.

Despite these convictions and a past sacking for incompetence she remains extremely popular in the poorer townships and she still lives in the Orlando East area of Soweto.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears