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South Africa Holds Local Government Elections


South Africa's third local government elections since 1994 have gone off smoothly with few hiccups and only one protest. The African National Congress is likely to once again gain the majority in most centers, despite widespread dissatisfaction with the poor performance of municipalities over the past five years.

At Khutsong, west of Johannesburg, angry protesters were dispersed by police using rubber bullets and a water cannon. Residents of Khutsong have been protesting for weeks because the government plans to rezone the community out of Gauteng province to North West province and very few voted in the area.

President Thabo Mbeki told reporters after he voted in Pretoria, that the election should not be judged by the behavior of a few.

"I don't know how many voters there are in Khutsong but they are a fraction of one percent of 21 million - so I don't think we should ignore the 21 million voters and not talk about them, and their concerns and what have you of 21 million people and just focus on this small group there relative to the rest," he said.

Even so, the residents of Khutsong have become symbols for many South Africans, including loyal supporters of the ruling party, who are fed up with the poor performance of municipalities, particularly over the past five years.

There have been widespread reports of corruption, failure to deliver and maintain basic services and infrastructure - often when available revenue has not been spent. Many analysts ascribe much of the failure to the lack of training and education of elected officials and municipal employees, but they are quick to add that the government has not put sufficient programs in place to correct these deficiencies.

Since last November, the mother city, Cape Town, has suffered major power outages - largely a result of damage to one of two plants at the country's only nuclear power station at Koeberg north of the city. The damage was caused by a bolt - which the government says was deliberately placed to cause the damage - perhaps by a disgruntled employee.

This time around African National Congress candidates have had to sign a code of conduct and have gone through a more rigorous selection process - but some poor performers from the past five years, were not eliminated and appeared on election lists in this election.

Despite the frustration of many voters, some analysts expect the turnout to be above 50 percent nationwide. They predict the African National Congress will continue to dominate in most jurisdictions.

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