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South Africans vote in municipal elections

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A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Imizamo Yethu, an impoverished informal settlement in Hout Bay, during South African municipal elections, on August 3, 2016, in Cape Town. South Africans voted Wednesday in closely contested municipal elections that could deal a heavy blow to the African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled since leading the struggle to end apartheid. Nelson Mandela's former party risks losing control of key cities including the capital Pretoria, the economic hub Johannesburg and coastal Port Elizabeth, according to some polls. RODGER BOSCH / AFP

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Imizamo Yethu, an impoverished informal settlement in Hout Bay, during South African municipal elections, on August 3, 2016, in Cape Town. South Africans voted Wednesday in closely contested municipal elections that could deal a heavy blow to the African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled since leading the struggle to end apartheid. Nelson Mandela’s former party risks losing control of key cities including the capital Pretoria, the economic hub Johannesburg and coastal Port Elizabeth, according to some polls.<br />RODGER BOSCH / AFP

The polls officially opened yesterday in South Africa as the country voted in what could be one of its most pivotal elections in years.

The African National Congress (ANC), the party of Nelson Mandela, which has been in charge in South Africa since the 1994 election, is facing its stiffest challenge in years.

Though past municipal elections produced a yawn among some South Africans, yesterday’s election became a crucial test of the ANC’s grip on power and a referendum on the country’s embattled president, Jacob Zuma, according to a report filed by Al Jazeera.

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Almost every single local government seat was up for grabs, including urban powerhouses like Johannesburg and tiny municipalities across the country.

More than 26 million people were registered to vote, and yesterday, they cast their ballots. More than 61,000 candidates competed for local government seats.

And in a testament to the vibrancy of this democracy, every single seat was being contested.

The Harley-Davidsons roared into a stadium as a drone camera flew over a sea of cheering blue, drum majorettes twirl their batons and a marching band blasts past, drowned out by the revving bike engines.

It was the kind of colorful final election rally South Africans were accustomed to. But this is Soweto, once an absolute lock-in for the ANC – and the thousands are cheering for the opposition.

Several years ago, it would have been unthinkable – now, even the opposition is playing the Mandela card.

At the rally in Soweto, the Democratic Alliance’s charismatic leader, Mmusi Maimane, a former pastor, tapped into humble Soweto roots and called on the legacy of South Africa’s most famous leader, Nelson Mandela.


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