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Elections 2024     |     Fri 12 Jul

This limited series newsletter offers deep dives and timely updates from the Mail & Guardian’s esteemed politics and elections team. Your essential guide through South Africa’s pivotal elections, enriched by our historic journey from apartheid to democracy. Allow us to connect the past, present, and future of our nation’s democratic evolution.

30 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: The 1994 elections had no mapping, no voters roll, but lots of goodwill

The first democratic elections in 1994 were a major logistical and political feat, with nearly 20 million citizens casting their votes together for the first time over three days, beginning on 27 April.


QUIZ | Who should you be voting for on May 29th?

Take this Mail & Guardian quiz to help you find the party with which you most align. The IEC expects more than 70 political parties to contest this year’s national elections - time to be choosy.

WATCH | National election debate at Fort Hare – Navigating South Africa’s political crossroads

If you missed it last week, watch the M&G national election debate featuring senior leaders from the country’s largest parties, making it a pivotal event in the lead-up to the elections.



It was 30 years ago this week that South Africans went to the polls in their first democratic elections. The M&G led with the story of the eventual folding of the hard line from Inkatha – now called the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) – as leader Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi had boycotted the elections until six days before the actual vote, part of its strategy of brinkmanship which forced constitutional guarantees for the Zulu monarchy in return for its participation.

Ballot papers had already been printed, without Inkatha on them, so the Independent Electoral Commission had to rush to find a solution, coming up with stickers bearing its logo which were added manually before voting day. The IEC had to play catch-up with voter education in the Inkatha strongholds they had previously been unable to enter.

Browse our feature: From the M&G Archives: Buthelezi, the King’s Hand


Apr 2201 Front Page


The first democratic elections in 1994 were a major logistical and political feat, with nearly 20 million citizens casting their votes together for the first time over three days, beginning on 27 April.

Many of the millions who did make their crosses had no birth certificates or identification documents. In addition, the IEC had to deal with the fact that voters carried paperwork issued by the central government and all of the homeland administrations. Proving anyone’s identity was difficult. All of these issues resulted in the voting being extended until 29 April, when the counting process finally started.

All the while the IEC did its best to educate everyone on how things were going to work, what the ballots meant and what your rights of a voter were to a population who had never had such rights before. This ad published this same week in the M&G declares that, “The success of the election depends on you. You have the right to exercise democracy’s most powerful weapon, the vote.”

How do we feel about democracy 30 years later?

30 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: Thirty and thriving, or barely surviving?

30 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: Older voters disillusioned after excitement of 1994 poll


Apr 2213 Iec Info Ad



Numerous international anti-apartheid movements and related organisations had pledged their support for a new and democratic South Africa. Such organisations re-affirmed their solidarity for those struggling to achieve a non-racial and democratic future, in particular the African National Congress and even said they were looking forward to them enjoying a decisive majority in the elections.

Indeed, in our own editorial of the same week we at the M&G, while admitting that the African National Congress represented 80 years of non-racial, cross-class struggle for democracy and human rights in this country, we also wrote of many issues of the party that deeply troubled us, including the shimmering clouds of corruption on the horizon. We wrote, “The ANC is the only party that has thrown its weight behind reconstruction and development, and has an extensive plan to achieve it. That plan is not without its flaws, but it is the best one before us as we go to the polls.”

“It is also the only party that has taken clear and, consistently progressive attitudes on most of the important social issues: abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, gender equality … ”

“South Africa needs a party with the leadership and credibility to unite the nation behind a vision of reconstruction. Only the ANC provides that.

Read the full editorial here



Apr 2220 Mg Editorial


The whole world was watching. There was a significant influx of international media and broadcasters. Major international networks like BBC, CNN, and others set up temporary studios and deployed correspondents across the country to capture the mood of the nation, the voting process, and the celebrations that followed the results.

An advertisement to watch it’s ’round-the-clock’ coverage on SABC. Join the world, it says, as it celebrates the last moments of apartheid.



Apr 2250 Sabc Last Gasp





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