Record number of South Africans register to vote

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A record 25.3 million South Africans have registered to vote for the May general election, organisers said on Tuesday, casting doubt on predictions of low turnout.

The Independent Electoral Commission said a final drive over the weekend saw more than one million people sign up to vote, pushing registration well above the 22 million mark seen in 2009.

The May 7 election - South Africa's fifth since apartheid ended in 1994 - will be the first in which "born free" citizens can cast their ballot.

They could make up as much as one fifth of the electorate.

The election will also be the first since the death in December of South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela.

"The new registrations lifted the overall registration level from 76.9 per cent prior to the weekend to 80.5 per cent of all eligible voters today," the electoral body said in a statement.

There has been speculation that voter turnout could be low amid anger at established political parties, which have failed to improve the lot of many poor South Africans.

There is growing voter disaffection with the ruling African National Congress (ANC), while the main opposition Democratic Alliance remains unpalatable to many black voters.

According to polling by IPSOS, 82 per cent of Democratic Alliance supporters speak Afrikaans or English at home - languages predominantly spoken by mixed race and white South Africans - compared with 6 per cent of ANC voters.

The election body also voiced concern at registration disruptions over the weekend in areas gripped by community protests.

Is some cases, rampaging mobs prevented people from registering and a registration station in a township west of Johannesburg was petrol bombed.