NELSON MAMETSE has been waiting in autumn cold since the early hours of the morning to cast his vote for Jacob Zuma.
“He is man who does not give up, he sees everything through,” says the security guard who believes the ruling ANC party has a god-given right to govern.
“It was the party that delivered us from apartheid. We would not be standing here, if it was not for the ANC, Nelson Mandela and Zuma,” he assures me.
I encounter Mametse at the front of an 800-metre queue winding its way through the shanties and shacks of Johannesburg's most deprived and violent suburb. It was here in “Alex” that Zimbabweans, who generally work for less pay, were hacked to death last year.
In the early morning there is no sign of the “xenophobic violence” that shocked the rainbow nation but drew scant comment from the then president, Thabo Mbeki. Small groups cluster around makeshift fires chatting excitedly about today and the next president.
It soon becomes apparent not all queuing so patiently share Memetse's enthusiasm for Zuma and the ANC. A young women peering from under a red cap says she is angry about the lack of housing and endless broken promises. Asked how she will vote, she declines to say. “This is a secret ballot, my vote will remain a secret,” she smiles, declining to give her name.
But voting intentions of the woman in the cap are obvious. She says South Africa needs a new government, that 15 years has been long enough for the ANC to deliver its promises. “We are tired of waiting,” she says.
People in Alex tell me they have been impressed by Zuma who visited the township promising a better deal, but also asking for patience. Feelings towards Mbeki are mostly negative. “He never came here. He did not understand us,” an unemployed man volunteers.
Voting began 7am and was due to end at 9pm. Some 25 million people are expected to vote and the result is expected in 48 hours.
Tamba Msibi, an observer from Swaziland, told the Herald there had been few irregularities. “These people have been very patient, very orderly. They have their IDs checked, their fingernails painted and they vote. Some have had difficulty filling out the papers for the first time.”
In Alex, the ANC is highly organised with cadres turning out the vote. But on the other side of town in Western, a predominantly “Coloured” area, people queuing are not so sure about the ANC's right to rule. Jane Miya, an unemployed mother of three, says the party has inflicted a form of reverse apartheid on her community.
“This was supposed to be a rainbow nation, but it's blacks only when it comes to jobs. The Coloured people are being left out. They say it is affirmative action, but it's discrimination. Twenty per cent of people cannot find work.”
Miya says she is voting for COPE. Outside the church hall, a young men in hip sneakers and jackets tell me they are voting for the Democratic Alliance. “Helen Zille, she is one. She is who I am voting for. No more corruption,” one of them says.