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Page last updated at 04:58 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 05:58 UK

As it happened: South Africa election

Voters queue in Khayelitsha township on the outskirts of Cape Town as dusk falls on Wednesday

By Lucy Fleming

Millions of South Africans braved autumnal weather to go to the polls in the most competitive election since the end of apartheid. We covered the day with news, insights from our correspondents and the best of Twitter, your e-mails and the blogs. (All entries were posted at South African Standard Time, GMT+2)

2209 Well it's just over an hour since polls officially closed, and although some voters are still waiting to cast their ballots it is time to wrap up our live events page. Please visit bbc.com/africa for the latest updates on the South African elections.


Andrew Walker
2157The BBC's Andrew Walker in Pretoria says: Rushed off to Brazzaville - an informal settlement outside the capital - as heard reports of snaking queues. But have arrived to find not a sausage - and all stations we passed along the way have closed too. IEC official Dick Mboweni, last here at 1600, said "unbelievably" his colleagues had managed to clear the queues.

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As polls officially close Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille responds to accusations of running a negative campaign

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Anonymous in Durban texts: Casting my vote today was exciting for me. I waited for about half an hour in the line - it was moving fast. The only problem we had was that some people could not vote because they were not registered, my mum being one of them.


Someone voting


South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper reports: At least 14 polling stations were closed early in the Western Cape province because there was no electricity. "Thousands and thousands of our voters are being turned away. These problems are only happening in the black areas," the ANC's Chris Nissan alleged. Read the report

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Mo Shafie in Mpumalanga province texts: Yay voted for the first time and in small town called Bethal. FELT GREAT.

Andrew in Cape Town texts: Darkness descended hours ago, but still there is great deal of activity on the streets
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and many are still waiting to vote at Milnerton polling station. There is a hum of excitement in the air - people believe there could be a historic result for the DA.


2107 Speaking to the BBC, the IEC's Pansy Tlakula defends her organisation's operation of the elections, saying the reason some polling stations ran out of ballot papers was a provision in law allowing people vote at polling stations other than those where they are registered - making effective planning difficult.

Analyst Adam Habib says the real race is for second place. He told the BBC if Cope makes early gains then this will be significant and show the party will be a real player in South African politics. Former prison Robben Island, with 200 voters, is usually the first place to declare results, followed by the northern suburbs of Cape Town and Johannesburg - usually DA strongholds.

Andrew Walker
2058The BBC's Andrew Walker in Pretoria says: The IEC just held a briefing where senior electoral commissioner Terry Tselane was asked how poll staff would stop latecomers from joining queues. He said, "'I'll let the chief officer answer the hard questions." But from the chief electoral officer Pansy Tlakula, answer came there none.


The IEC headquarters
There is a buzz at the IEC headquarters as polls officially close

e-mail sent in by reader
"Freedom" in Pretoria e-mails: I'm pleased to announce that Pretoria city hall voting station is safe n fast. I waited at the line for an hour I HOPE THE TRUTH WILL BE REVIELD THIS YEAR.
More of your comments

2051 With just minutes to go before polls are due to close, the IEC confirms reports that people still queuing to cast their votes will be allowed to vote past the official closing time. The high turnout - which the BBC's Peter Biles in Pretoria says could reach 80% of the voting population - has caused a shortage of some voting materials.


2008 Dr Xolelu Mangcu of the University of Johannesburg tells the BBC that the ANC may do surprisingly well in these elections, even retaining its two-thirds majority in parliament, because it has been reinvigorated by the new threat it faces from ANC breakaway party Cope and has worked hard to bring out its vote.


Voters queue inside a voting station in Khayelitsha township on the outskirt of Cape Town

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buge tweets: Hrm, the purple [ink, used to mark those who have voted] washed right off my thumb, just like that *snaps fingers*

1933The BBC's Andrew Walker in Pretoria says: I'm at the electoral commission headquarters
Andrew Walker
in a hall with one side covered in Eurovision-like laser display result boards. There's a buzz about the place and officials say if voters are in a queue at 2100 when polls officially close, then they will be able to vote no matter how long it takes.

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stringhandler tweets: Finally got to vote after one hour 45 minutes at 1850. The line at Glenvista [in Johannesburg] is still as long as this morning. The IEC is going at snail's pace.

1912 South African Press Association reports: A voting station in Kagiso, west of Johannesburg, was plunged into darkness when a generator failed. Mobile phones were used as torches until candles were found. "We have sent somebody to go buy petrol," said electoral officer Patrick Pisane.

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johanvo tweets: Just been to voting station in Pretoria East, queue longer than 800m, people are determined to vote, it is cold outside.

1851The BBC's Martin Plaut in Cape Town says: This evening as the sun sets there is a steady stream of voters
Martin Plaut
of all ages queuing in Tafelsing township where there is very fierce competition between the ANC, DA and Cope. Party vans are passing by with their theme music blaring out.


South Africa's Cape Argus newspaper reports: Blind voters at some polling stations were disappointed to find there were no Braille templates to allow them to cast their votes in secret. "I did vote, but… I will never know where he actually made the cross," Cape Town voter Jerome Jacobs said. Read the report


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MichellefromSA tweets: Standing in line waiting to vote. Good tunes and stars above me.

1836The BBC's Nick Ericsson in Johannesburg says:The electoral commission in Gauteng province says the
Nick Ericsson
shortages of ballot papers and boxes is because of an "imbalance in distribution" caused by people taking advantage of being able to vote pretty much where they like.


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Alana, in Johannesburg texts: I had the privilege of monitoring various stations across Gauteng with the Jewish Community Observer. Today we witnessed Madiba [Nelson Mandela] casting his vote.

Peter Price
1819 The BBC's Peter Price in Port Elizabeth texts: The sun is setting as we finish broadcasting the BBC World Service's Focus on Africa programme from Motherwell, but there seems to be no end to the queue of waiting voters. The polling station is a hive of activity where neighbours have gathered to cha and children to play.


ANC statement from spokeswoman Jessie Duarte: The ANC calls on all those who have not yet voted to do so before 9pm. Voters should remember that anyone who is in the queue at 9pm will still be able to vote.

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bkhechane tweets: I just casted my first vote... it feels amazing...i love South Africa.


SABC news reports: Helen Zille's Democratic Alliance has threatened to take IEC to court over ballot paper shortages in Gauteng, Cape Town. Meanwhile, IEC has given the green light to voting stations experiencing ballot box shortages to go ahead and use special vote boxes.

South Africa police woman pointing
Police have been on duty at polling stations


1754South Africa Press Association reports: The ANC's spokeswoman Jessie Duarte calls for voting hours to be extended in provinces where voter turnout had been especially high.

e-mail sent in by reader
Mirya in Durban e-mails: Voting was a breeze. I went early and there was an acceptable waiting period. My concerns however were the cardboard ballot boxes secured with a cable tie. Also the ballots were in English with only five or six lines of other languages [out of 11 official languages].
More of your comments

South African Press Association reports: Willie Jacobs, a 21-year-old farm worker near Bains Kloof in Western Cape province, says he's had a profitable day selling 25 bags of tangerines to passing voters. He hopes to vote later in the day.

Josephine Hazeley
1708 The BBC's Josephine Hazeley in Port Elizabeth says: There is chaos and long queues here at Motherwell. Voters are angry. "I've been here since six o'clock and I'm fed up," one woman told me. The presiding officer has promised voting time will be extended.

FROM THE BBC WORLD SERVICE

Nick Ericsson
1700The BBC's Nick Ericsson in Johannesburg says: Steady stream of later afternoon voters in Orange Grove near the central business district, but there are more and more reports emerging of ballot paper shortages particularly around Pretoria.


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Radio702 tweets: Houghton Primary [in Johannesburg] using special ballot boxes now (from Monday and Tuesday) - normal ballot boxes full!

1650The BBC's James Fletcher, in Port Elizabeth, says: I just spoke to 24-year-old Athi who runs her own travel company.
James Fletcher
She went to the polling station in Walmer earlier but took one look at the queue and turned on her heels. She is determined to vote, though, and told me she will join the line - no matter how long - this evening.

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yaarik tweets: Just got home after making my mark in the elections - time for an ELECTION DAY BRAAI [barbecue].

1629 International election observer Abulhameed Ujo from Nigeria popped by to tell BBC reporters in Pretoria that at a number of polling stations he witnessed a slight logistical problem: Voting papers are so large, it doesn't take many to fill the little boxes.


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Thabo Mbeki urges South Africans to vote for the "South Africa we fought for"

Luc in Johannesburg e-mails: I've voted at this station twice before, and it's always been deserted.
e-mail sent in by reader
Today, turnout is dramatic. I am happy and pleased with the new found passion and excitement that has been found by my fellow countrymen.
More of your comments

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evergleamy tweets: Yay, I voted! 30 minutes from start to finish at Parkhurst Primary School. Amandla!


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Michelle in Gauteng province texts: I stood in line for four hours to cast my vote. It was cold, but the family behind me gave me a blanket - which I was glad for because I hadn't realised I would have to wait so long.

Mohammed Allie
1614The BBC's Mohammed Allie in Cape Town says: A few polling stations have run out of ballot papers, while some parties are concerned that they will lose votes because of voters leaving because of the wait caused by long queues.

FROM THE BBC WORLD SERVICE

Karen Allen
1612Karen Allen in Johannesburg says: I'm at a polling station where there are still long queues and electoral officers are checking people's voting papers. There's a mixed bag of supporters: Some are prepared to give ANC more time to deliver others are far more defiant and will vote for change.

South African Press Association reports: Election officers and ANC volunteers squabbled outside at a school voting station outside East London, after the volunteers had been seen telling people who to vote for. Read the report


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nieldlr tweets: Felt surreal standing in the booth making my cross for the first time. Felt so proud.

Hunter in Pretoria e-mails: It appears the electoral commission has adopted a go-slow policy, allowing
e-mail sent in by reader
12 voters per hour to vote in areas not expected to support the ANC. I have been to my local polling station three times and eventually gave up trying to vote.
More of your comments


e-mail sent in by reader
Sarah from Grahamstown e-mails: I'm at Rhodes University and it's just been so encouraging to see the never-shortening queue outside the polling station. So many first-time voters eager to make a difference.


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South Africans stand in queues to vote in the election


1530South African Press Association reports: Electoral commission chief Brigalia Bam says voting has gone smoothly so far despite a few irregularities. She said a presiding officer was shot in the Free State during a robbery, but said it was not a politically motivated shooting.

e-mail sent in by reader
Khathutshelo in Port Elizabeth e-mails: As a first-time voter the experience was amazing. The ANC will win but we're fighting for them to not get a two-thirds majority. A lot of young people were voting today. Now I wait.

A voter in Cape Town tells the BBC: If we don't get things right here we're going to go backwards. I just look at Zimbabwe and I cringe.

Mohammed Allie
1440The BBC's Mohammed Allie in Cape Town says: Cricket fans went to the polls early here in order to watch the latest match in the Indian Premier League between the Royal Challengers and the Deccan Chargers, which starts at 1630 at the Newlands Cricket ground.

Thumb being marked
A voter gets a thumb inked after casting her ballot

Martin Plaut
1426The BBC's Martin Plaut in Cape Town says: Turnout has been so high because people are pretty determined to vote because they fought extremely hard for many years to overthrow apartheid and to get the right to vote and they are absolutely keen to to do it.


South Africa's African Eye News Service reports: The IEC has urged residents of Phiphidi village in Limpopo province to go to the police after their chief ordered them to vote for the ANC or "face his wrath". Read the report

Peter Biles
1420The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says: So far the chilly autumn day has not stopped voters queuing. Crucially the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says there have not been any major reports of violence or intimidation.

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Opposition candidate, Bishop Mvume Dandala, casts his ballot in Boksburg

By Jude Sheerin

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Mengistu, Centurion texts: Have just cast my vote in freezing conditions - it was worth the effort. Fantastic to vote for the fourth time. Yeeha!


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Archbishop Desmond Tutu casts his vote in South Africa

e-mail sent in by reader
Gerrit Penning, Free State e-mails:I'm currently standing in a voting queue here in Bloemfontein on a chilly, windy autumn day. People are quite relaxed at this polling station, chatting around with smiles on their faces! Let's hope for the best results... More of your comments

Karen Allen
1307The BBC's Karen Allen at a polling station in a Johannesburg township says:The issues here are unemployment, crime, education and health. Some people are prepared to give the ANC more time but others will vote for change.

James Fletcher
1301 The BBC's James Fletcher, in Port Elizabeth, says: The sky has darkened here and it looks like it is about to pelt down with rain, but the queues are still long. Our citizen reporter Asanda queued in New Brighton township for over an hour. Read Asanda's report


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1256Graham in Johannesburg texts: At at polling station in the suburbs north of Johannesburg. The queue is moving slowly but everybody is relaxed enjoying the autumn sunshine as we all wait to cast our ballot.

Mpho Lakaje
1254The BBC's Mpho Lakaje says: When Jacob Zuma turned up to vote in Nkandla, there was a festive atmosphere, women ululating, reaching out to touch him. Also present was ex-Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is heading up the group of African poll observers.

FROM THE BBC WORLD SERVICE

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tally1302 tweets: Waiting in line to vote. It's a good place to meet new people. Everyone happy and friendly despite long queues...

1225 "When I grew up, I did know that this day would come," 67-year-old Zuma said as he cast his vote, reports AFP news agency. "This makes me feel great and it's a feeling far different from the one that we had under the apartheid government."

Mohammed Allie
The BBC's Mohammed Allie near Cape Town says:The mood is quite festive with party vehicles driving around and using loud-hailers to urge people to vote for them. The polling station I visited in Khayelitsha is a basic corrugated iron structure.

e-mail sent in by reader
Mzwandile ka Swazi, Johannesburg e-mails:I'm definitely going to vote for the least corrupt government that South Africa has ever had, namely the ANC. I will be ensuring that the party gets a two-thirds majority in order to undo the many evils of the past. More of your comments

1210 Desmond Tutu, no longer a big fan of the ANC and a vocal critic of its leader Jacob Zuma, has also cast his vote in Cape Town. The South African Archbishop said enigmatically: "I feel good but it isn't like the previous elections. That is true of so many people who are having to ask questions."

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Former South African President Nelson Mandela casts his vote

e-mail sent in by reader
Andrew Wolff, in Durban, e-mails: Sure the ANC will win. They brought the country out of apartheid. But the liberation is over. Poverty and ignorance still imprisons the majority. People are not free and will not be free until the country embraces a leader with morals and scruples.

1155 Winnie Mandela has voted in Soweto with her arm in a sling. She said: "I don't really think about the opposition, it's good that they are there, if the party is unchallenged for too long it can get too high-handed." She was then swept away by shades-clad bodyguards.


e-mail sent in by reader
Yusuf, from Sandton, Johannesburg, e-mails: I will be voting in an attempt that the ANC do not win a 2/3 majority again. Many people who are fed up of the ANC just choose not to vote instead of voting for another party, and I urge such people to please VOTE for anyone apart from the ANC!

Cape Town voting
More long queues to vote in Cape Town

e-mail sent in by reader
Stefan van Niekerk, Alberton, near Johannesburg, e-mails: After the emergence of the new party, Cope, the ANC got a big fright and started marketing like crazy. It seems like there is not a lamp-post in the country that does not have an ANC poster attached to it. More of your comments

1136 Jacob Zuma is casting his vote in his home village of Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.


FROM THE WORLD TODAY

Orla Guerin
1119The BBC's Orla Guerin says: If the ANC loses its two-thirds majority, it won't be able to roll into parliament and use it as a rubber stamp anymore. It seems the new Congress of the People party can only increase its share of the vote, at ANC expense, as time goes on.

Jonah Fisher
1109The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Johannesburg says: Queues snaking round the block in Yeoville area. Voters seem energised by emergence of Congress of the People party. It looks set to take 10-15% of the vote, which would have a substantial impact on the ANC majority.

Mpho Lakaje
1050The BBC's Mpho Lakaje says: I'm in Jacob Zuma's rural home village of Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. He's expected here in under an hour. Big queues at local polling station, most voters for Zuma, but some complaining about not having water or electricity and the state of the roads.

Martin Plaut
1025The BBC's Martin Plaut in Cape Town adds: Some students say they were inspired to vote by Barack Obama, as he had shown change was possible.


e-mail sent in by reader
Daniel Munslow, Johannesburg, e-mails:For the first time since 1994 we are seeing fragmentation in the ANC, as the new Cope party is likely to take a small share of its voters. I hope this will usher in an era of greater accountability, transparency and moral rule. More of your comments

Martin Plaut
1015The BBC's Martin Plaut in Cape Town says: Unverified reports from state-run SABC of two incidents: a polling official shot and wounded in Orange Free State and a case of ballot-box tampering in KwaZulu-Natal.

Karen Allen
1010The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says: There have been a few skirmishes in the township of Alexandra, where some protesters have been saying they won't vote until they get houses. Housing is a big issue in this election. Read more: 'One house, one vote'

e-mail sent in by reader
Bhekukwenza Sibalukhulu, Johannesburg e-mails:I just voted and I am happy for the future of this country and Africa as whole. I hope my party will do as well as it did in the past 15 years especially because of what they've done for South Africa's poor. More of your comments

Andrew Walker
0946The BBC's Andrew Walker in Soweto says: Former freedom fighter Mancoba Qubeka, 58, complains the ANC has done "dismally" on land reform. Buhle Sibeko, 19, says after voting ANC, he will go out and encourage his friends to vote for them too.

Thabo Mbeki vote
Dodgy pic from our reporter of Thabo Mbeki voting (Honest, it is him)

0945 For irregular viewers of South Africa's political soap opera, Thabo Mbeki quit as president last year after losing a power struggle with Jacob Zuma. In the bitter fallout, disaffected ANC members jumped ship and set up Congress of the People. I wonder if Mbeki voted for Cope. Let us know what you think.

0935 Former President Thabo Mbeki has cast his vote in Parktown, Johannesburg, saying: "People should vote for who they want, not out of fear, but for the party they believe will deliver the South Africa they want." Hardly a ringing endorsement for the ANC then! Journalists asked Mbeki who he voted for and he just laughed.

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An uptown girl and township jobless vent their spleen

Martin Plaut
0917The BBC's Martin Plaut in Cape Town says: The ANC is still expected to take at least 60% of the vote (it got 70% last time). But it is facing real opposition and it's likely Western Cape will become the first province since 1994 to be governed by a party (Democratic Alliance) other than the ANC.

Peter Biles
0913The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says: Former President Thabo Mbeki has just turned up to vote. No one really knows where he stands as he didn't come out and throw his weight behind the ANC during the campaign.

Voters queue
Richard Wooding took this pic of a long queue at a Cape Town poll station

e-mail sent in by reader
Derek Hart, Durban e-mails:This election has been about Zuma. The ANC supporters worship him, but there are millions of concerned South Africans who believe that the alleged corruption charges against should not have been withdrawn. More of your comments
Queue of people voting

0846The BBC's Andrew Walker in Soweto says: It's a bank holiday and most of the voters queuing up are the middle-aged and elderly, young people seem to be still in bed. It's about a half-hour wait at the Orlando West polling station.

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mylifescape tweets: Queue moving quicker than any bank queue I've been in. This is positive :) That's how we roll in Sandton.

0842 If you've just joined us, voting's been brisk so far, the leaders of the opposition Congress of the People and Democratic Alliance have cast their ballots. Still no sign of ANC leader Jacob Zuma, a man whose political musk seems to have made him bullet-proof to sex and corruption scandals that would have destroyed lesser politicians.

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iankruger tweets: Long queues, will come back later armed with flask, munchies and warmer wear.

0830 Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille tells the BBC as she waits to vote in Cape Town: We are saying stop Zuma to protect the constitution and prevent a criminal state.

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roxyburger tweets: In a cold queue in Jozi waiting to make my mark. My first election - exciting!

Nick Ericsson
0757The BBC's Nick Ericsson in Johannesburg says:Former President Thabo Mbeki is expected to cast his ballot soon in northern Johannesburg.

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marknewlyn tweets: It is voting day!! The very fact that we get to vote should be celebrated! Please don't forget to make your mark!

Audrey Brown
0754The BBC's Audrey Brown says: Opposition Congress of the People's presidential candidate Bishop Mvume Dandala has cast his vote.

Martin Plaut
0750The BBC's Martin Plaut in Cape Town says: Polling stations have been open for 50 minutes in the university area of Rondebosch and the queues are mainly white, some first-time voters, predominantly Democratic Alliance supporters. DA leader Helen Zille is due to cast her ballot here soon.

Nick Ericsson
0744The BBC's Nick Ericsson in Johannesburg says: Voting started an hour early in one polling station in Alexandra township in the north of the city because of long queues - all going smoothly.

Peter Price
0741The BBC's Peter Price in Port Elizabeth says: Surrounded by great atmosphere at this polling station - the hubbub of voters waiting to cast their ballots, birds singing and trains passing. A sound man's dream!

text message
0733Muhammad Peer, 20, a student at Cape Town University, texts: Even though I'm a card-carrying member of the ANC Youth League, I'm nevertheless still indecisive as to who I shall be voting for. The other option to voting is spending the day at the beach since no candidate has given me enough reason to vote.

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jody23 tweets: I'm in the queue freezing my cheeks off, but I'm here!

Karen Allen
0726The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says: It is not yet clear if Congress of the People have been able to convince voters they will offer something different from the ANC, given that most of the new party is made up of former members of the governing party.

0724 A sweeping victory seems likely by the ANC, in power since 1994 and revered as the party that slew the apartheid dragon. It won a record 70% of the vote in 2004 with the Democratic Alliance a distant second on 12%. Congress of the People is expected to munch into the ANC's flank, but will the new kid on the political block help itself to a cub-like nibble or a lion-sized bite?

Andrew Walker
0721The BBC's Andrew Walker in Soweto says: Short queues at Orlando West High School. Godwin Montombama, 32, got up at 4.30am to make sure he was first in line. "I will always be ANC," he said.

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jody23 tweets: Alright South Africa, it's election day, time to make your mark that'll change history. Let's do this...

0709 In all, 26 parties are listed on the national ballot. But the pack leaders are: the governing African National Congress (currently has 297 seats in 400-member parliament); Democratic Alliance (47 seats); Inkatha Freedom Party (23 seats); and the new ANC breakaway party, Congress of the People.

e-mail sent in by reader
Charles Machebele from Johannesburg e-mails:South Africans are proud of their country. Most of us are already at the voting station since 3am ready to vote. More of your comments

0700 South Africa's 20,000 polling stations are opening in what promises to be the nation's most compelling election since the end of apartheid. We'll be following the vote blow-by-blow up until the final ballot is cast at 9pm. More than 23 million of South Africa's nearly 50 million people have registered to vote.

map of south africa



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