South Africans vote in most competitive election since apartheid ended

KWAMASHU, South Africa, May 29 (Reuters) – South Africans voted on Wednesday in the most competitive election since the end of apartheid, with opinion polls suggesting the African National Congress could lose its parliamentary majority after 30 years in government.

Queues formed in the main cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban as polling got underway around 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), with lines also seen in the morning cold in townships on the outskirts of cities and in rural areas.

I grew up loving the ANC because of how they fought for the freedom we have today,” said business owner Skhumbuzo Mnyandu, 48, who came out to vote in KwaMashu, a township close to Durban. “That is why I voted for them all these years.”

“But this year, I have changed because of the problems with the ruling party, and so I have become a member of the MK party,” he said, referring to uMkhonto we Sizwe, a new party backed by former president Jacob Zuma.

Voters at polling stations across the country cited high rates of unemployment and crime, frequent power blackouts and corruption in ANC ranks as reasons why they would vote for opposition parties.

Young voters who did not live through apartheid were particularly disillusioned with the ANC and the country’s economic prospects.

“We are young, and there’s no jobs for the youth. We have degrees, but there’s no getting jobs, there’s no difference actually. So, I’m here to make a difference and vote for MK, maybe they are going to do better than the ANC,” said Nosipho Mkhize, a 28-year old – the median age in South Africa.

Others however were wary of change.

Pensioner Charles Louw, 62, said he would remain loyal to the ANC as he distrusted the promises made by opposition parties to create jobs, end power cuts or crack down on crime.

“The ANC have been trying to do it, they are there, they have got experience, they know how to accommodate everything. But the new parties, where will they start?” he said after voting in Alexandra, a sprawling township east of Johannesburg.

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