South African Elections: Racial sparks fly as the Cape votes

'The situation is explosive,' said the white election observer. 'This is gangland, and most of these people are armed. One fight will set it off.'

He was standing between rival groups of National Party and African National Congress supporters in Manenberg, the roughest of the townships built on the desolate Cape Flats for Coloureds (people of mixed race) when apartheid expelled them from the inner city. Graffiti on the walls of the squalid communal flats proclaimed allegiance to such gangs as the Americans, the Jumbo Boys and the Jesters, drug dealers and armed robbers who terrorise the district.

Peace monitors and Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials radioed anxiously for help as the rival groups danced to campaign tunes blasting from their loudspeakers, but the mood seemed raucous rather than dangerous. The Nationalist supporters, who far outnumbered the ANC, cackled as a toothless old woman minced about in what she claimed was an imitation of Marike de Klerk, the outgoing President's wife. Three runaway horses galloped past to whistles and cheers from the crowd, lending a touch of pure surrealism.

As in most of the country, yesterday's second day of voting in Cape Town was an anti-climax. Polling stations where thousands had queued in the rain on Wednesday saw only a trickle of voters, despite better weather, and many shops and offices were open, ignoring the announcement of another public holiday. But flare-ups between Nationalist and ANC supporters continued in some Coloured areas, where visceral racism has surfaced during the campaign.

The National Party has successfully exploited fears of black domination among mixed-race voters, making the election race the closest in South Africa.

'Moenie vir die bobbejaane stem nie (Don't vote for the baboons),' screamed a Nationalist worker in Bonteheuwel, a more prosperous Coloured area, where the ANC appeared to enjoy greater support than in Manenberg.

'Bly 'n Hotnot - stem NP,' read a spray-painted slogan nearby. The message translates as: 'Stay inferior - vote National Party.'

Most Coloureds and Indians rejected the Nationalist government's attempt 10 years ago to fob them off with separate legislatures, while denying any representation to blacks. For four Coloured voters out of five, this is the first time they have gone to the polls, yet the National Party appears set to gain most of their votes.

James Engelbrecht, 54, who disclosed that he had served 15 years for murder - 'I was a prisoner, like Mandela. If he has the right to take over the country, I am also entitled' - made little secret of his sympathies. 'I have a car, a bakkie (pick-up truck) and a firearm,' he said. 'The National Party has fed me all these years, so why should I turn from them now?'

For the radical Pan Africanist Congress, the threat is the ANC. It said yesterday that the IEC in the Western Cape consisted overwhelmingly of ANC supporters, who had conspired to disrupt polling in the PAC's claimed strongholds of Mitchell's Plain, where more than a million Coloureds live, and the neighbouring black township of Khayelitsha. Patricia de Lille, the party's candidate for regional premier, said the PAC would refuse to accept the Western Cape results unless its complaints were resolved.

Early yesterday some polling stations in Khayelitsha had still received no ballot papers, but many of the area's first-time voters went elsewhere. On Wednesday some took taxis to vote as far away as Sea Point, where luxury apartment blocks overlook the ocean. They took down election posters to shelter from the pouring rain, or shared umbrellas with whites, but Marion Laverlott, a Coloured MA student, had no protection except the shoulder of her white friend, Raymond Koekemoer. 'I'm voting ANC and he's voting Nat, but he's my best friend,' she said.

Vian van Niekerk had crossed the city to vote next to the castle erected by the first white settlers soon after they arrived in 1652. The country's new flag fluttered from the ramparts. 'I feel it is significant to end apartheid where it began,' he said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
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: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea