Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 12:23 UK

Old faithful stay true in ANC heartland

Voters in Soweto
Voters braved a cold day, many arriving at polling stations hours early

By Andrew Walker
BBC News, Soweto

A stone's throw from Nelson Mandela's old house in Soweto, south of Johannesburg, there is no question about who will win South Africa's national and provincial elections.

This is the heart of the heartland of the African National Congress (ANC).

But still, Godfrey Montombaha got up at 0400 to make sure he was first in line.

The 32-year-old metalworker says the newly formed Congress of the People (Cope) party does not pose a threat to the ANC.

"I know where I come from and where all these people come from. We will never forget what the ANC has done for us."

No Cope

In fact, Cope did not even send any party agents to the polling stations the BBC visited in the Soweto district of Orlando West.

In the minutes before the polling station opened, the line was mostly older and middle-aged people, wrapped in blankets and shifting from foot to foot to ward off the morning chills.

Fifteen years is a very minimal time to do a lot or to satisfy everyone. If [the ANC] will have another 15 years then maybe we will see something more
Joseph Lethoko

In the end it was Ruth Ntombana, 56, who cast her vote first in Orlando West High school.

She was instantly surrounded by journalists all trying to find out who she voted for, but she fended them off.

"It's my secret," she giggled.

Polling went smoothly here. People entered the station, quietly taking their ballots and disappearing behind the cardboard screens.

Someone noticed the newspapers covering the windows by the polling booths had an ANC advert on them - the face of its leader Jacob Zuma, set to be the country's next president, peering over their shoulder.

It is illegal to have political adverts in polling stations so the paper was quickly removed.

Double pay

Outside the polling station, workmen were hard at work laying a new pavement despite the public holiday.

"We are going to get double-pay today, so we wanted to work," said 40 year old Joseph Lethoko.

"I've not been working for some time, and I have to make use of the opportunity," said Nathe Sibeko, 42.

What has the ANC done for people like him?

So excited I could not sleep
Buhle, on the left, with his brother Mbongeni

"Fifteen years is a very minimal time to do a lot or to satisfy everyone. If they will have another 15 years then maybe we will see something more."

He said he will go and vote after he knocks off at 1400.

Then he will go and relax with his family.

What does he hope the future holds for his three children?

"I have wishes not hopes," he says, for a stable country and a better economy.

"Hope is something you envisage, a wish is something you can work towards making fundamental."

Machine gun

When asked how he voted, 21-year old Mbongeni Sibeko made a motion like a machine gun firing.

He means Jacob Zuma, who has become famous for singing the Zulu language liberation anthem "Mshini Wami" (Bring me my machine gun).

"I'm happy with the ANC so far, life is smooth for us because of the ANC," says the student at Johannesburg University.

It is the first time he and his 19-year-old brother Buhle are voting.

"I'm so excited," said Buhle. "I couldn't sleep."

"The opposition are just trying to complicate things. I don't understand why they're trying to separate."

Buhle says he is going to use the rest of the day to go out and encourage his friends to vote too.

Lone opposition

The BBC did find one person who did not vote for the ANC in Orlando West.

Mancoba Qubeka, 58, is a former freedom fighter, who got military training in Tanzania as part of the Azanian People's Liberation Army, when it was fighting white minority rule.

The former journalist voted for the Pan Africanist Congress.

Xorilela Makakwa, left, and a friend
Elderly voters like Xorilela have been taking their place at the polling booths

"The PAC is still there, but it's organisationally weak."

The party that was formed as a more radical movement against apartheid has been all but swept away by the ANC.

"This South Africa is not what I imagined as a young man," he said.

"The ANC has done dismally on a key issue of land reform. The former ruling class still own the land and South Africans in rural areas are still suffering."

At a polling station in Sisulu Street, next to the former home of Walter Sisulu, the BBC met 74-year-old Xorilela Makakwa.

The ANC has been bussing in elderly and infirm people to make sure they vote, but she and her friend did not take the offer of a lift.

"We need our exercise!" she said.

"I have no problem with the policies the government has, I have a problem with the people the government has deployed to do it."

She says that the ANC should have done more for the youth.

"We have young people here that are loitering with nothing to do, and they just end up making more babies who will also be jobless."

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