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South Africa goes to the polls

Wednesday 7th May is election day in South Africa, the first since the death of Nelson Mandela in December and only the fifth general election to take place since the end of apartheid. Interestingly, it is also the first time that voters who were born after the fall of white minority rule are old enough to take part.


This round of elections is all the more significant as it comes 20 years after South Africa held its first post-apartheid elections, when Nelson Mandela of the ANC Party, was the overwhelming winner, becoming South Africa's first black president.

Mandela, who had only been released in 1990 following 27 years in prison, much of it on Robben Island, was tasked with the rebuilding of a country still reeling from being under apartheid for so long. 

The African National Congress (ANC) Party, currently let by President Jacob Zuma, has held the majority of seats in the National Assembly since the historic elections of 1994. Zuma is expected to win, with 60% of the votes but the party's campaign has not been without setbacks, including worries over high unemployment and concerns about corruption.

The main opposition party is the Democratic Alliance, led by Helen Zille, and there is a new party just launched by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, called the Economic Freedom Fighters. 

Looking at opinion polls there is clearly some dissatisfaction with how the country is being run but the ANC campaign has been dominated by a reflection on its past triumphs and Nelson Mandela's legacy. Posters at the polls read "Do it for Madiba, Vote ANC!" and will clearly have a big impact on voters. However, it is hard to imagine that the party can continue to look back like this in future election campaigns.

With 25 million people registered to vote and 22,263 voting stations open for South Africans to make their voice heard, whatever the final result, South African has many issues that need to be faced.

Saying that, it was not so long ago that the voting privilege was not extended to most of its people, so the strides made by this 'rainbow nation' have been huge. South Africans and the world at large are waiting to see what happens next.

Are you South African and going to the polls today? Let us know by commenting below.

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