History of elections in South Africa

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The South African general elections: 2009

The 2009 national elections saw an increase in the number of voting stations from 14 650 in 1999 to 19 726 across South Africa. The establishment of new voting districts and changes to the boundaries of existing voting districts resulted in the need for targeted registration campaigns. Through such campaigns, efforts were made to ensure people were registered in the correct voting districts.  

The biggest challenge was the issue of the right to vote by South African citizens out of the country. The Electoral Act was very specific on the groups of people who were allowed to vote overseas. The IEC decided that it would apply the provisions of the law. In the end, a number of parties took the matter up in separate court cases. The Constitutional Court heard all these matters and passed judgment on 12 March 2009. The judgment ordered the Commission to make provision for all registered voters overseas to vote at South African missions provided that they gave notice to the Chief Electoral Officer by the prescribed date. The challenge was overcome. On 15 April 2009, votes were cast at South African missions overseas. Prior to the voting day, political parties had their chance to campaign in the country.

The ANC’s election campaign was around the view that the ANC-led government had made much progress over the past 15 years in terms of delivery in housing, water and electricity, economic growth, job creation, provision of social grants and deepening of democracy. The central message of the ANC manifesto was that there was a need for South Africans to work together to achieve more in the areas of water, electricity, job creation and housing.  The ANC recognised the need to change the way government relates to the people and in the delivery of services. It also committed itself to ensuring a service delivery culture that would put every elected official and public servant to work for the people, and ensure accountability to the people.

The Congress of the People’s (COPE) (the new party formed by defectors from the ANC) election campaign was around the view that government has to be accountable to the people and committed to serving the people instead of personal interests. It opposed the promotion of ‘kith and kin politics’. The party believed that accountability would be ensured through changing of the electoral system from the proportional system to the direct election of senior office bearers like the President, Premiers and Mayors. COPE understood that that would also improve public participation in all forms of governance.

The IFP manifesto was freedom which included transparency and accountability as important elements.

The 2009 election was contested by 26 political parties: African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Congress of the People (COPE), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), United Democratic Movement (UDM), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Freedom Front Plus (FF+), United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP), Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Minority Front (MF), Keep It Straight and Simple Party (KISS), Independent Democrats (ID), Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) ,  African People’s Conversation (APC), Movement of Democratic Party (MDP), New Vision Party (NVP), Women Forward (WF), Pan Africanist Movement (PAM), United Independent Front (UIF), South African Democratic Congress (SADECO), Great Kongress of South Africa (GKSA), National Democratic Conversation (NADECO), Al Jama-ah, Alliance of Freedom Democrats (AFD), Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA), and A Party (AP). 

The election was held on 22 April 2009 for all seats of the National Assembly. There was two days set aside for special voting following 22 April 2009 for people who did not vote on the election day because of physical infirm, disabled or pregnant. The number of registered voters was 23 181 997, the total number of votes (voter turnout) was 17 919 966, the number of invalid or blank votes was 239 237, and the total number of valid votes was 17 680 729. The ANC obtained 11 650 748 votes, DA obtained 2 945 829 votes, IFP obtained 804 260 votes, COPE obtained 1 311 027 votes, ID obtained 162 915 votes, UDM obtained 149 680 votes, ACDP obtained 142 658 votes, FF+ obtained 146 796 votes, UCDP obtained 66 086 votes, PAC obtained 48 530 votes, MF obtained 43 474 votes, AZAPO obtained 38 245 votes, and APC obtained 35 867.  

In the House of Assembly, the ANC won 264 seats, DA won 67 seats, COPE won 30 seats, IFP won  18 seats,  ID won 4 seats, UDM won 4 seats, ACDP won 3 seats, FF+ won 4 seats, UCDP won 2 seats, PAC won 1 seat, MF won 1 seat,  APC won 1 seat, and AZAPO won 1 seat.  

On 9 May 2009, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was sworn in as the President of the Republic of South Africa. Max Vuyesile Sisulu was elected the Speaker of the National Assembly.  Max Sisulu took over from Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde. 

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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 : 14-Apr-2014

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