JOHANNESBURG — South African political parties hold final campaign rallies this weekend ahead of elections on Wednesday that are likely to see the ruling African National Congress return to power with a smaller majority due to voters disaffected by corruption in government and economic inequality.
Officials will visit hospitals, retirement homes and other places to help about 300,000 people cast early ballots on Monday and Tuesday, ahead of election day, according to South Africa's election commission. Some people will also vote early at polling stations. Voting for South Africans abroad ended on Thursday with polling stations in London and Dubai having the largest turnouts.
South Africa has about 25 million registered voters, roughly half the population. The election this year has symbolic resonance because it comes 20 years after the country's first all-race vote which heralded the end of white-minority rule.
The African National Congress, which led the movement against apartheid and has dominated politics since the 1994 vote, has sought to woo voters with the narrative of what President Jacob Zuma says is "a good story to tell," citing improvements including the provision of housing, water and electricity to millions of people.
However, government corruption, crime and economic inequality have sapped some of the ANC's popularity, and opposition parties are seeking to capitalize on that discontent to make electoral gains. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, controls the Western Cape, one of South Africa's nine provinces, and hopes to make a strong run in Gauteng, the most populous province.
Another challenger is the Economic Freedom Fighters party, which wants to redistribute wealth and is run by Julius Malema, who was expelled from the leadership of the ANC's youth league.
The ruling party won two-thirds of the vote in 2009 elections. Its credibility has suffered in part because more than $20 million in state money was spent on upgrading Zuma's private rural home. The state watchdog agency concluded that Zuma inappropriately benefited and should pay back some of the money. Lawmakers in the ANC-dominated parliament delayed any study of the matter until after the election.