24 Apr 2009

ANC heading for victory in South Africa election

9:58 pm on 24 April 2009

African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma has appeared before a cheering crowd, as his party headed for a clear victory in South Africa's general election.

Mr Zuma, 67, - set to be the next president - said the ANC had put across its policies and people had understood.

With about half of all ballots in, the ANC had about 67% of the vote.

If this holds, the party will keep the two-thirds majority it would need to change the constitution and further strengthen its hold.

The ANC's closest rival is the Democratic Alliance, with 15.78%, while the Congress of the People - formed as a direct challenge to the ANC - is trailing on about 7%.

The Democratic Alliance was ahead in Western Cape province, which is currently controlled by the ANC, with almost 50% of the vote.

Election officials put turn-out at about 77%. Formal election results are not expected until much later on Thursday or Friday.

Democratic Alliance Party leader Helen Zille says the party's election gains will help consolidate democracy in South Africa. The party will put in place good government where it can and demonstrate what good clean government can achieve, she says, unlike the corrupt ANC.

Wednesday's poll was the country's fourth, and most competitive, general election since the end of apartheid 15 years ago.

Among Mr Zuma's first tasks will be reassuring foreign investors who fear trade union allies will push him towards the left at a time the continent's biggest economy could already be in recession for the first time in 17 years.

He has also pledged to tackle the rampant violent crime which could mar next year's hosting of the soccer World Cup.

Police said the election was largely peaceful, although COPE said one of its officials was shot dead in what it believed to be a political killing.