Threats to elections

The first election happened on the cusp of a low-scale civil war.

Just a week before the elections, the Inkatha Freedom Party, representing part of South Africa's isiZulu-speaking people, had not yet found its way into the election.

On 28 March 1994, thousands of Inkatha demonstrators marched past Shell House, Johannesburg, the former oil company headquarters that served as headquarters for the ANC after it was unbanned.

ANC security guards at Shell House killed nineteen IFP members following a tip-off that IFP marchers were planning to attack the building. The Nugent Commission of Inquiry on what actually caused the shooting rejected this explanation. The commission's conclusion was that the shooting by ANC guards was unjustified.

This incident reflected the rising tensions between the ANC and IFP, which had begun in the 1980s in KwaZulu-Natal and had then spread to other provinces in the 1990s. The IFP claimed that the ANC was intent on undermining traditional authorities and the power of Zulu Chiefs. The ANC saw it as a power struggle as the demise of apartheid was finalised.

Read more about the Shell House massacre on anc.org.za


Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's hearings on the Shell House shootings on info.gov.za

Just two days before the election, Central Johannesburg suffered a bombing carried out by the white right-wing. The bomb went off outside the African National Congress regional and national headquarters. Nine people were killed (including ANC Johannesburg secretary-general Susan Keane, who was the 41st candidate on the ANC's regional election list) and 92 people were injured.

On 26 April, a day before the election, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, a bomb blast rocked a taxi rank, and an explosive device was thrown at minibus taxis parked under a bridge. Nobody was injured in either incident. On Election Day, a car bomb at Johannesburg's Jan Smuts Airport injured 16 people and caused massive structural damage to the north face of the building.

These serious incidents of political violence were carried out by Members of the AWB in support of the organisation's struggle to prevent majority rule.

South Africans vote: April 1994

The election took place over three days (27-29 April) in 1994. The election was conducted under the direction of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

It was a cathartic and historic turning point in South African history. It paved the way towards a new democratic dispensation and a new constitution for South Africa. For the first time, all South African adults in the country went to the polls.

There were reports of the stockpiling of food by some whites and the British embassy indicated that it had received an unprecedented number of applications for immigration.

Nineteen political parties participated and twenty-two million people voted in a hugely successful election.

  • The African National Congress (ANC) won the election with 62.65 % of the vote.
  • The National Party (NP) received 20.39 %
  • Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 10.54 %
  • Freedom Front (FF) 2.2 % (The Conservative Party decision not to participate in the first multi-racial parliamentary elections in 1994. Much of its support base defecting to the newly-formed Freedom Front).
  • Democratic Party (DP) 1.7 %
  • Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 1.2 %
  • African Christian Democratic Party 0.5 %