A RECORD 25.3-million South Africans have registered to vote in the national elections, with almost 80% of new registrations last weekend being people under the age of 30, the Independent Electoral Commission said on Tuesday.
The IEC’s final registration drive on Saturday and Sunday attracted more than 1-million first-time voters, bringing the total number of South Africans eligible to cast ballots on May 7 to 80.5%, IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula said.
The election will be the first in which the "born frees" vote, 10 days after the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. However, those aged under 20 are likely to be a small percentage of those who vote.
South Africa’s demographics point to elections where voters with no direct experience of apartheid will rapidly grow as a proportion of the electorate.
But apart from a few acknowledgements from the Democratic Alliance (DA), there was little indication that any parties were using the born-free concept in campaign tactics and future strategy, political analyst Steven Friedman said on Tuesday.
A third, or 683,201, of those aged 18 to 19 years have now registered, with 61.1% of those aged between 20 and 29 now eligible to vote. The 20- to 29-year-olds constitute the second-highest number of voters, at 5.8-million.
Gauteng will continue to have the largest number of registered voters at 5.6-million, followed by KwaZulu-Natal at 4.8-million.
A total of 3,521 applications for registration from the South African diplomatic community abroad had been received, with a further 700 still being expected, the IEC said.
The final voter registration drive was marred by several service delivery protests, including in Bekkersdal, Gauteng, where stations were petrol bombed. The IEC will likely also face pressure as party campaigning heads up.
The Democratic Alliance in Gauteng has alleged that ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s blue-light convoy hit a cyclist during the registration weekend, a claim denied by the ANC which said it would raise the matter with the commission.
At a briefing on Tuesday, Ms Tlakula said the commission was ready to deliver a "fool-proof election" but was concerned over the safety of staff.
The IEC was working with police and expected politicians to begin dialogue to resolve those issues, she said.
Voters will still have an opportunity to register until the formal publication of the date of the election in the Government Gazette.
The proclamation of the election date has also triggered a timetable of deadlines for the submission of party lists for provincial and national legislatures and applications for special votes.
The ANC is receiving objections from members to its election lists after its national list conference. The Democratic Alliance is still to announce its candidate for the Presidency, with members set to consult this weekend on how to proceed after a failed merger with Agang SA.
On Tuesday the president of the faction-ridden Pan Africanist Congress, Letlapa Mphahlele, disputed reports that he has been expelled from the party.