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Mandela rides in the back of a truck in the South African town of Brits during a pre-election rally near the end of his tenure as president in 1999. (Los Angeles Times)

The South African general elections: 1999

On 3 March 1999, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, announced to the National Assembly (Parliament) that the second non-racial general elections would be held on 2 June 1999. According to the terms of the Constitution, the President could only officially set the election date after 30 April, but Nelson Mandela announced that he had revealed the election date unofficially to allow people to plan properly.

President Nelson Mandela announced his plan to retire after the 1999 election. The 1999 general election was open to more than 15 million registered voters, and it was contested by only 16 political parties: African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Party (DP), New National Party (NNP), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), United Democratic Movement (UDM), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Freedom Front (FF), United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP), Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Federal Alliance (FA), Minority Front (MF), Afrikaner Eenheids Beweging (AEB), Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO), Abolition of Income Tax and Usury Party (AITUP), Government by the People Green Party (GPGP), and Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA).

Prior to the election, the ruling ANC claimed that it had achieved a great deal in the past four years. It had embarked on a broad reform of financial policy and it had enunciated a reasonable economic policy. The health system was slowly being overhauled. Housing had made some progresses. The delivery of clean water had had significant success. During electoral campaign, the dominant issues included the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, the high unemployment rate, rising crime and the poor state of the educational system. Deputy President Thabo Mbeki reiterated the ANC's commitment to continued economic growth and reconstruction as well as eliminating crime, corruption and self-enrichment. Meanwhile, the opposition parties attacked the ANC for failure to deliver promises.

The election was held on 2 June 1999 for all seats of the National Assembly. The number of registered voters was 18 177 000, the total number of votes (voter turnout) was 16 228 462, the number of invalid or blank votes was 251 320, and the total number of valid votes was 15 977 142.  The ANC obtained 10 601 330 votes, the DP obtained 1 527 337 votes, the IFP obtained 1 371 477 votes, the NNP obtained 1 098 215 votes, the UDM obtained 546 790 votes, ACDP obtained 228 972 votes, FF obtained 127 280 votes, the UCDP obtained 125 280 votes and the PAC obtained 113 215 votes.

The ANC won a total of 266 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, the NNP won 27 seats, the DP won 38, IFP won 33 seats, UDM won 14 seats, ACDP won 6 seats, FF won 3 seats UDCP won 3 seats, PAC won 3 seats, FA won 2 seats, MF won 1 seat, AZAPO won 1 seat, and AEB won 1 seat.

On 9 June 1999, the ANC entered into a coalition with the Indian-led Minority Front (MF), which held one seat in the new Assembly. The coalition agreement ensured that the ANC had the necessary majority to rewrite parts of the Constitution. On 16 June 1999, Thabo Mbeki was sworn in as President of the Republic of South Africa, and the composition of his Cabinet was announced on 17 June 1999. 

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References:
• Commonwealth Observer Group and Secretariat, (1999). National and Provincial elections in South Africa. 2nd June 1999.
•  Election dates South Africa. Journal of African elections. February to July 2009. Johannesburg: Electoral Institute of Southern Africa.
•  Lodge, T. (1995).The South African General Election, April 1994: Results, Analysis and Implications. African Affairs, Vol. 94, No. 377, pp. 471-500.
•  Southall, R and John Daniel, J. (2009). The South African election of 2009. Africa Spectrum, Vol. 44, No. 2, pp.111-124.
•  Southall, R. (1994). The South African Elections of 1994: The Remaking of a Dominant-Party State. The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 629-655. 

Last updated : 21-Apr-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 27-Feb-2014