Leaders of South Africa’s main political parties taking part in Wednesday’s national elections have cast their ballots in their different constituencies across the country.
They joined some 26.8 million registered voters to cast their votes in 22,925 polling stations which opened at 7:00 am (0500 GMT) and are due to close 14 hours later .
Wednesday’s election will renew the country’s parliament, and by extension its president.
Incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa whose ruling ANC party has been in power since 1994 and is favourite to win despite corruption scandals, sluggish economic growth and record unemployment, was at Chiawelo Primary School in the Soweto district to perform his civic duty.
The ANC has won all five previous elections, and is tipped to come out on top again albeit with a reduced majority.
But the vote will be a test of whether its new leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, can reverse growing dissatisfaction among South African voters.
The leader of South Africa’s far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, Julius Malema, cast his vote in a primary school in Sheshego, Limpopo province.
After casting his vote, the former ANC youth leader who formed the EFF in 2013 said, “If people want to remain unemployed, landless and continue to perpetuate corruption, they must continue to vote for the same party they voted for. But if you need change, the EFF is the way forward.”
The leader of South Africa’s main opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) urged all eligible voters to cast their ballots in parliamentary and provincial elections.
Mmusi Maimane was appointed its first black leader in 2015 and made headlines by leading coalition victories in local government elections in Pretoria and Johannesburg a year later but splits within the party and with allies could see support for the DA wane.
“On such a historic day it is important to vote here in Soweto, with the people of Soweto to express a hope and a future for our country. Soweto to me represents in many ways the home of where the struggle is and now we’re entering into a new struggle, a struggle for jobs for many South Africans and therefore I call upon the people of this country to come out in their numbers today. It’s a historic moment in our nation as we transition again,” Maimane siad after casting his ballot.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will face its biggest challengers from the main opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Queues built up at polling stations through the morning as South Africans started voting. Officials have not said when the final results will be announced.
Meantime, South Africa is holding parliamentary and provincial elections amid frustration with a lack of progress 25 years after Nelson Mandela’s ANC swept to power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.