South Africans will today head to the polling booths to vote in a general election that is expected to see the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party of President Jacob Zuma remain in power.
Around 22,000 voting stations will open at schools, places of worship, tribal authority sites and hospitals. Several dozen vehicles will also be serving as mobile voting stations.
Some 25 million South Africans, roughly half of the population, have registered to vote.
But only one-third of those between the ages of 18 and 19, who are eligible to vote, have actually registered, according to the country’s election commission.
“We’re generally seeing a youth that is still quite disillusioned by the current political landscape in South Africa,” Lauren Tracey, from the Institute for Security Studies, told Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa. “They don’t feel as if their vote is going to make a difference.”
Some young South Africans are calling for more jobs and a movement away from focusing on colour in the hiring process.
“If I could speak to President Zuma from a young, white man’s perspective, I’d say, Mr President, you cannot use nationalistic undertones…you can’t use race as an excuse any more,” Jarrod Delport, who was born after apartheid, told Al Jazeera’s Mutasa. “It’s time to move forward. If you are re-elected, it’s time for jobs.”
Delport said he understood why government policies had to favour black job applicants due to the country’s history, but wanted South Africa to see beyond colour.
Corruption at high places is also weighing heavily on the voters minds.
Zuma has also been engulfed in a scandal involving accusations that he used $20m in state funds for his private home.
But while unease with Zuma has grown, it is not expected to shake core support for the ANC, which led the movement against white minority rule and has dominated politics since Nelson Mandela became president in South Africa’s first all-race vote in 1994.
In the country’s last election in 2009, the ANC party fell just short of a two-thirds majority.
Its main rivals this year are the Democratic Alliance, a centrist party led by Helen Zille,a former journalist and anti-apartheid activist, and the Economic Freedom Fighters, headed by Julius Malema, a former leader of the ruling party’s youth league who wants to redistribute wealth to the poor.
Ronnie Kasrils, a former intelligence minister, urged people to spoil their ballots on Wednesday or vote for an opposition party.
But the ANC encouraged voters not to boycott the polls, citing the sacrifices of those who fought for democracy.
“For us, the right to vote is a coveted prize that was earned under difficult and painful circumstances,” the ruling party said.
Nearly 2,000 military personnel will assist police in ensuring security during the election. [AlJaazeera]