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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?