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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
music
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
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

Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn