South African elections underway

Ruling party chief Jacob Zuma is confident that he will win by a wide margin in polls which have just opened for South Africa’s fourth general election.

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More than 23 million South Africans are registered to vote and some like Ntombi Mthetho have already cast their ballots.

“I came here at 12 midnight because I wanted to be the first in line so that I can go back home and listen to the radio to see how the party I voted for is doing,” the 46-year-old told AFP in Johannesburg.

Landslide predicted

Polls predict Mr Zuma\’s African National Congress (ANC) will take 67 per cent of the vote, virtually guaranteeing his position as president when parliament meets in May to elect a new head of state.

The 67-year-old former anti-apartheid activist has brushed aside concerns that his campaign has been dented by recent corruption charges.

Charges against him were dropped only two weeks ago, but Mr Zuma says he’s confident of a “huge and decisive mandate” and has defended his integrity by denying claims there “clouds” around him.

Zuma’s campaign

While Mr Zuma is revered by the poor, he is distrusted by the middle class because of his tainted image and fears over strong ties to the ANC\’s leftist partners.

He was jailed for a decade alongside former president Nelson Mandela and has campaigned on themes of anti-corruption and good governance.

“We reiterate that we will use our majority responsibly and will not ride roughshod over the rights of the people, or bulldoze other parties into submission,” he said.

Zuma’s presidential bid received a major endorsement when 90-year-old Mandela made a rare public appearance at a mass rally in Johannesburg on the weekend.