Long queues as S Africa votes with ANC rule in balance

May 30, 2024
Voters wait in line at night outside the city hall voting station in Durban on May 29, 2024. — AFP

JOHANNESBURG: South Africans queued late into the night to vote on Wednesday, forcing polling stations to remain open beyond closing time in a landmark general election, with the ruling ANC fighting to protect its three-decade-long grip on power.


More than 27 million voters were registered for the most uncertain poll since the African National Congress led the nation out of apartheid.

Most polls started to close at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) but thousands were still waiting in line after nightfall in some big-city voting stations, with electoral officials vowing everyone would get their chance.

With opposition challenges from both the left and right, unemployment and crime at near-record levels and a new generation growing up with no memory of the struggle against white-minority rule, the ruling party may lose its absolute majority and be forced to share power.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said it projected turnout to go “well beyond” the 66 percent recorded in the last election in 2019.

“We are experiencing a late surge and are processing a large number of voters,” the IEC´s head Sy Mamabolo told a press conference less than an hour before polls were due to close. All those who joined the line before 9:00 pm would be allowed to vote, he said.

Earlier the IEC said seven percent of stations opened late because of delays in delivering election materials.

After voting, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is seeking re-election, said: “I have no doubt whatsoever in my heart of hearts that the people will once again invest confidence in the ANC to continue leading this country.”

But John Steenhuisen, leader of the biggest opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA), predicted no single party would win an outright majority, creating an opening for his party and an alliance of smaller outfits.

“For the first time in 30 years, there´s an opportunity for change in South Africa,” he said after voting in his home city, Durban.