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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Can Africa learn from SA poll?
Party supporters
There were reports of scattered violence in KwaZulu-Natal
International election observers are staying away from the South African elections, not out of fear but in a show of confidence in the country's ability to deliver a free poll.

An official from SA's Independent Electoral Commission, Thoko Mpumlwana said the UN, the European Union and the Commonwealth had been invited to send observers but declined.

The country's electoral officials are hoping that the elections can serve as a model for other African nations, with South Africa's liberal constitution becoming another export alongside beer and mobile phone networks.

So should South Africa become the blueprint for other nations? What aspects of South African democracy could other countries be emulating?

Or can South Africa learn from elections elsewhere in Africa?

The BBC's Africa Live programme would also like to hear if and why you think these elections matter to the rest of Africa.

Join the debate Wednesday 14 April at 1630 & 1830GMT

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.

I am an expatriate South African living in the USA. The simple answer to the question "Can Africa learn from SA poll?" is "Of course it can given the free, open and fair polls that have already been conducted in the country in 1994 and '99 and this year. The real question is "Will Africa EVER learn from the success of South Africa's democracy?" The answer to that question is not at all certain, and perhaps the answer is NO. I grew up under apartheid, I visit South Africa frequently and in my opinion the country is better today than before. I am not blind to the problems of crime, a shaky health service and corruption in many areas, but in general I see a better SA than the one I grew up in.
! Peter Dewberry, US

South Africa's democracy will be strengthened when there is true competition among parties. South Africa's opposition is weak and fragmented; hopefully in the next few decades a system will emerge that allows all South Africans, regardless of race, to choose among several credible parties.
J.P. Howard, US

Democracy has arrived in South Africa but its roots are still shallow. There is still no real effective opposition and people still vote mainly along racial lines. For democracy to not only survive but also to grow, greater education of the voter needs to occur and a real effective opposition needs to become an everyday reality.
Mike Burford, RSA and Germany

Nowhere in the world is election is absolutely free of malpractices, as long as one power is contestable for by many. South Africa gives a ray of hope from Africa that, one day a well coordinated election that is organised and won in an environment of mutual respect.
Olufemi Olawale, Nigeria

A lot can be learnt from these elections that Africa can be a democratic continent. South Africa needs to realise the importance of these elections and conduct them in a manner that is desirable and sustainable. At the same time, why so much emphasis on SA when countries like Botswana and Mauritius are Africa's longest running democracies, we would have learnt from them by now.
Mothusi, Canada/Botswana

There is nothing that Africa can learn from South African elections. South Africa is just ten years old and still has a lot to learn especially when a puppet opposition party is created to reverse the ANC's political gains. In Zimbabwe our elections after every five years since 1980 were always peaceful until the advent of the opposition MDC in 2000. The absence of the so called international observers in these South African elections creates more questions than answers.
Tendai, Zimbabwe

The Democratic system has been existing in Botswana for ages, or is it not at par with the SA. In reality Botswana should become the blue print for Africa.
Trevy Ombala Yenu, Angola

Free and fair elections are not in themselves enough to demonstrate a democracy. Peace and stability are also basic requirements where South Africa is still lacking as far as violence is concerned. The other is a decent living but South Africa is still economically a minority White dominant country. No wonder UN and Commonwealth Observers have no interest because it satisfies their hidden agenda. Let Non Aligned Movement, Africa Union and SADC send observers if it's not too late
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda

Most of Africa knows what they're suppose to do. It's a matter of enacting what they know. South Africa learnt what not to do from the rest of Africa, and they're doing a good job at it. The test remains, whether South Africa can maintain and improve on what it has.
J. Mensah, USA (ghana)

Mauritius is also part of Africa and a role-model for the democratic election process. The last election passed without any major violence reported and that was mentioned by the UN in its report. We can help Africa to have a good democratic election process by having massive educational campaigns about peaceful and fair elections with a sound political programme.
V. Kasamally, Mauritius

South Africa is a pride and lesson for black people everywhere, including the US. And the lion's share of the credit goes to Mandela for his foresight in recognising that South Africa belongs to all South Africans, despite the terrible crimes of the past.
John Williams, USA

South africa will surely become the blueprint for other nations. World leaders should start thinking about other systems of government for most African states as most are not yet ripe and prepared for democacy.
Stanley Chukwu, Italy

Reading all this I get the implicit implication that South Africa is the first African "success" story as far as democracy and free polls are concerned. Can I bring to your attention that if models are being sought, countries like Botswana have seen through successful transparent elections every 5 years since independence in 1966.
Tshiamo Motshegwa, Botswana/ UK

Like all other democratic nations, South Africa and all other African countries, need strong opposition. You must have strong opposition by 2008, otherwise prepare for the worst.
Watcher of Africa, Botswana

A huge, massive governing party that always wins elections. A relatively weak opposition that is arranged around ethnic or religious (and in this case racial) lines. Perhaps South Africa should learn from the rest of Africa that this sort of situation is not ideal. It is good that there are no foreign observers. If an African country organises decent elections, then they do not need "observers" to validate themselves. And if an African country organises rigged elections, well, the "observers" will not be able to do anything about it.
B. Wuse, Nigeria

No one has ever been able to hold perfect elections, where neither side tries to bend the rules in order to get the better of the other side. South Africa's current leaders obviously do not have to descend to violence because of the overwhelming support they have from the electorate. In spite of that, we do see violence in the KwaZulu-Natal Province where the ANC does not have as much support.
Kelfala Kallon, Sierra Leone/USA

South Africa has done us Africans proud as other countries may benefit if they honestly and earnestly want to emulate the run up to the presidential elections. Generally, things have been conducted in a peaceful and tolerant manner. Thank you South Africa for setting a good precedence.
Mukuru Mukuru, Zimbabwean in USA

Instead of proposing SA democracy for the rest of Africa, you might more usefully comment on the deficiencies the first 10 years of democracy have revealed.
Paul, Ireland

Elections in South Africa and the manner in which they are held are vital for Africans, particularly in the SADC region, because of the implications they are bound to bear. A show of violence in SA will send the wrong signal because a substantial number are going to the polls soon. Because South Africa is considered a political and economic big brother, fairness and peace in the country will most likely compel SA's neighbours to do likewise. However, I don't know about international observers declining to participate because my impression is that they come in not as policemen but neutral observers or monitors.
Tawanda Majoni, Zimbabwe

South Africa has given those of us Africans living abroad something to be proud of. Something good can come out of Africa. Nigeria is a big disgrace, with the trend being that only the incumbent party can win elections. Honestly something should be done about Nigeria. It is an accident waiting to happen. Rwanda will be a child's play!
Tunde Adebayo, Nigeria

What about the violent killings in Kwa Zulu Natal? There have been countries in Africa where elections have passed without a single loss of life. The international observers could have their own reasons not to go to SA.
Kalaba Ng'ombe, Zambia

Certainly, we can all learn from each other. We Africans have to do away with our macho unbending, autocratic and non-consensus-seeking attitude. I congratulate the South African government. On the other hand they too should show they can learn from other African countries.
Denzel, Liberia/Chile

Other countries, mainly the ones with an autocratic government, can learn from SA that they don't need to oppress their opponents to stay into power & control. 10 years of democracy & liberal elections kept ANC in power, without abusing its position, anyway not openly.
Erik van Luxzenburg, the Netherlands

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The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"President Thabo Mbeki will win the elections"

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