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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK

World: Africa

Democracy comes of age - Press review

Voting was marked by long queues and lengthy delays

South Africa's newspapers on Thursday reflected on a peaceful day's polling - but many expressed concern for the rural people who had had to endure long queues or long journeys owing to a shortage of voting facilities near their homes.

South African Elections
South Africa's main black daily, the Sowetan, drew particular attention to the trouble-free voting around the migrant workers' hostels in Soweto.

These hostels have in the past been flashpoints of fighting between ANC-supporting township residents, and Inkatha-supporting hostel dwellers.

"The dawn of democracy has been credited for restoring peace that saw residents and [hostel] inmates standing in the same voting queues yesterday," the Sowetan reported.

On the negative side, the paper reported on the anger of farmworkers outside Johannesburg who had had to endure long, slow voting queues.

It also quoted Matthews (sic) Phosa, premier of Mpumalanga province, who had expressed concern over reports that certain white farmers in his province had been bullying workers into voting for particular parties.

The Cape Times heralded the "dawn of the Mbeki era", with a large picture of voters queuing up as the sun rose.

The paper quoted top election official Mandla Mchunu, who was predicting an "extremely high" turnout.

"It will be something unprecedented in terms of second democratic elections in Africa," Professor Mchunu told the newspaper.


The Johannesburg-based The Star said the peaceful poll marked the coming-of-age of South African democracy.

"The election confounded cynics who expected voter apathy to rule the day," the paper reported in its front-page story.

"Contrary to expectations, long queues were reported from many voting stations from early in the morning."

The story was accompanied by an aerial photograph of a long, snaking line of voters, reminiscent of the pictures of South Africa's first all-race election five years ago.

The Star also reported it had received phone calls from "dozens" of readers who were worried that they had been given pencils to make their cross on the ballot paper - and that this could allow their votes to be erased.

The paper quoted an election offical who reassured the anxious callers that their votes were safe.

In a lighter moment, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had arrived "with great fanfare" to vote, only to find she had left her identity document at home, The Star reported.

But the paper also told of farmworkers near Mafikeng in the North-West province, who had had to walk 40km to the nearest polling station after a farmer reneged on his offer of transport.

Cape battle

The Cape Argus concentrated on the provincial vote in the Western Cape, which has seen a close battle between the New National Party - which took power in the province in 1994 - and the ANC.

The province's coloured majority was seen as holding the key to the control of the provincial government.

"We'll give you one more chance - that was the message from the Western Cape's coloured working class to the New National Party, which today appears set to be the major shareholder in the yet-to-be-formed coalition which will run the province for the next five years."

The Cape Argus predicted that the Western Cape would become the NNP's "last outpost", as the Democratic Party looked set to become the largest opposition group in the national parliament.

"Comparison of national and provincial figures showed the coloured working class stayed with the NNP whereas whites shifted to the DP in droves," the paper reported.

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