South Africa recently celebrated Freedom Day, the commemoration when all South Africans were allowed to head to the polls and vote in national elections for the first time. On Wednesday 8 May, South Africans will make their way to the voting booths once again to have their say in who will run the country for the next five years.
The elections are a time to look to the future with hope that those we put our trust in actually deliver on their promises and act with integrity. But it’s also an opportunity to look back at some iconic images that make up the voting history of our still young democratic country. Whether it’s the lines of people stretching into the distance waiting with pride for their first chance to exercise their newly won freedom, or Nelson Mandela casting his vote as part of his decades-long fight for freedom, voting in South Africa more so possibly in any other country is an emotional experience.
Voting in South Africa for the longest time was a privilege afforded to a few and through the blood, sweat and tears of countless brave men and women. That privilege now falls upon all South Africans. So forget about your party allegiances for a few minutes and enjoy some pictures of South Africa at its best. Remember that there is still a lot of work to be done. But we that we have already come a long way together.
It’s hard not to be moved when looking through the images of ordinary South Africans and politicians alike as we celebrate our freedom by participating in our democracy.
South African elections 1994 – 2014
27 April 1994
South Africa’s first general elections was the dawn of a new era. The ANC secured 12 237 655 votes and earned 252 seats in the National Assembly. Opposition parties included the National Party, the Inkatha Freedom Party, The Freedom Front, and Democratic Party and the Pan Africanist Congress.
Nomaza Paintin, posing as the niece of post-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, raises her fist as she becomes the first black person to vote in the South African general elections in Wellington on 26 April 1994. Nomaza Paintin was later exposed as a fraud : in fact she was born in Zimbabwe, and is not of Nelson Mandela’s family. She appeared in court in New Zealand in 1995 for misrepresentation. Photo: AFP/Phil Reid
South African Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu casts his vote on 27 April 1994 in Guguletu, Cape Town, in South Africa’s first democratic elections. Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and was in 1995 appointed by then president Nelson Mandela to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established to investigate human rights abuses under apartheid. Photo: AFP/Anna Zieminsky
Anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Mandela, the estranged wife of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, raises her fist 27 April 1994 as she arrives at the polling station in the east Johannesburg township of Katlehong to vote in South Africa’s first elections by universal suffrage. Photo: AFP/Harold Gess
African National Congress (ANC) President Nelson Mandela smiles broadly 27 April 1994 in Oshlange, black township near Durban, as he casts his historic vote during South Africa’s first democratic and all-race general elections. Photo: AFP/Walter Dhladhla.
2 June 1999
South Africa’s second general elections was held on 2 June 1999. The late Nelson Mandela declined to be re-elected as president. Instead, the ANC was lead by former President Thabo Mbeki. The party retained its dominant position with 10 601 330 votes and earned 266 seats in the National Assembly. Opposition parties included the Democratic Party, United Democratic Movement, the Inkatha Freedom Party, and the New National Party.
South African President Nelson Mandela ticks of the ballot papar as he is to cast his vote 2 June 1999 at the polling stationin the Houghton suburb of Johannesburg in South Africas second fully democratic elections. Photo: AFP/Odd Andersen
Anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the estranged wife of South African President Nelson Mandela casts her vote, 2 June 1999 at the polling station in the Orlando west high school in the Soweto township some 30 km southwest of Johannesburg. South Africans goes to the polls Wednesday in the countries second fully democratic elections. Photo: AFP/Odd Andersen
14 April 2004
The 2004 elections saw the ANC reach new heights. This election proved to be the party’s greatest electoral victory to date. Led by Thabo Mbeki, the ANC secured 10 880 915 votes and 279 seats in the National Assembly.
The NNP secured only 1.65% of the votes, down from 6.87% in the previous election. On 9 April 2005, the NNP’s Federal Council voted by 88 to 2 to disband.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela gestures after casting his vote for his country’s third democratic general election, 14 April 2004. Ten years after the end of apartheid, South Africans vote today in elections that are to hand President Thabo Mbeki’s ANC party another resounding victory and a mandate to fight AIDS, crime and poverty. The African National Congress, which under Mandela ended decades of white minority rule, could even clinch a two-thirds majority in parliament and is battling to take the remaining two of the nine provinces where it does not hold sway. Photo: AFP/Alexander Joe
22 April 2009
Mbeki’s resignation,along with antagonistic factional entities within the party, severely swayed the ANC from their victory course. Kgalema Motlanthe served as the interim president for eight months. Opposition parties included the newly-formed Congress of the People (COPE), along with the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Independent Democrats and the United Democratic Movement. Jacob Zuma was elected as president, and the ANC secured 11 650 748 votes with 279 seats on the National Assembly.
South African former President Nelson Mandela casts his vote in South Africa’s general elections accompanied by his daughter Zinzi Mandela (L) in Johannesburg on 22 April 2009. South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela, 90, voted in the country’s fourth democratic polls 15 years after his election ended white minority rule. Photo: AFP/Alexander Joe
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki (L) casts his vote at the Holy Community College in Kilarney, Johannesburg, on 22 April 2009 during South Africa’s fourth democratic general elections. South African voters went to the polls in general elections all but certain to propel the ruling ANC party’s controversial leader Jacob Zuma to the presidency. AFP/Elmond Jiyane
South African wait in line to cast their votes at the Tokoza township in the east of Johannesburg on 22 April 2009. Long lines of South Africans voted in general elections set to launch the ruling ANC party’s controversial leader Jacob Zuma into the presidency. Photo: AFP/Alexander Joe
7 May 2014Our last general elections saw the ANC losing support, primarily due to Zuma’s tenure. The Economic Freedom Fighters led by Julius Malema made their grand entrance. The Democratic Alliance secured the Western Cape. Apart from the DA and EFF, other opposition parties included the Inkatha Freedom Party, the newly-formed National Freedom Party (NFP), African Independent Congress (AIC), and Agang. The ANC won the election by securing 11 436 921 votes – a decrease of 3.75% – and 249 seats in the National Assembly. The DA secured 4 091 584 votes, and the EFF 1 169 259.
Voters queue at the Rakgatla High School voting station in Marikana, where residents reported waiting on line for more than four hours. South Africans in the Rustenburg area of North West province vote in the country’s 2014 general elections on 7 May 2014. Photo: AFP/Skyler Reid
South Africans queue to vote for the general elections , early on May 7, 2014 in the restive Bekkersdal township. Polls opened in South Africa’s fifth all-race elections today, with up to 25 million citizens — including a “born free” generation electing a government for the first time — expected to cast their ballots. Photo: AFP/Marco Longari
African National Congress ( ANC) leader Jacob Zuma casts his vote for the general elections at the Ntolwane Primary School in his rural village of Nkandla, on 7 May 2014. Photo: AFP/Rajesh Jantilal.