Millions of South Africans head to polls in heated election

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Millions of South Africans began voting for local government officials in a hotly contested election on Monday with many voters demanding better services.

“I cast my vote to exercise my democratic right and I’m hoping that the party I voted for will bring better services to my community,” Jus Mazibuko, a resident of Johannesburg, told Anadolu Agency.

According to the country’s electoral commission, some 26.2 million people have registered to vote in Monday’s elections.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (0600GMT) and will close by 9 p.m. (0800GMT). There are more than 23,000 polling stations across the country.

Some of the major political parties competing in the polls include the ruling African National Congress (ANC), main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and third-largest party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Dozens of other parties are also taking part in the elections. The ANC, which has been in office for 27 years since the abolition of apartheid, is facing tough competition from the opposition.

Experts say that although the party has maintained its popularity at the national level, it has been losing popularity in local governance, losing some major cities in the 2016 local government elections.

COVID-19

The electoral commission released a set of health guidelines to help protect voters as the polls are underway amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected nearly 3 million people in the country and led to the deaths about 89,000.

Voters are required to wear face masks and keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) from others at all times while at the voting station. Officials will also be disinfecting voting boards all the time, the electoral body said. Source: Anadolu Agency