Going Down Memory Lane: A Timeline Of Democratic South African Elections

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By Chandré Cupido

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.


Democratic elections are well underway with a date set for the 8th of May 2019, when South African citizens can vote for the political party of choice. This has been a huge achievement for our country as we have come a long way given our painful history. Now, we wait to see whether parties will stick to their word and offer us an electoral campaign that doesn’t leave us with high expectations and empty promises. The South African national elections happen once every five years and even though it’s a long wait, it gives us the time to look back at past elections and their milestones to see just how far we’ve come. A timeline is a great way to illustrate the importance of each election since 1994. 


Election Timeline created by VARSITY



Former President, F.W. de Klerk announced that elections were going to be held on 27 April 1994 which marked the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Since 1990 political violence between liberation movements such as the ANC and the IFP were ongoing and thus the elections were important for the country. This election was the first election where all South Africans could vote and a total of 19.5 million South Africans cast their vote toward the democracy of South Africa. On the 9th of May 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black South African President.



On the 2nd of June 1999 the second non-racial general elections took place in South Africa and was open to more than 15 million registered South African voters. This voting election was profound as Thabo Mbeki was elected President of South Africa and had to fill the shoes of Tata Madiba which put his leadership into question. 



This was the country’s third democratic and non-racial elections which was held on 14 April 2004. President Thabo Mbeki promised that unemployment, HIV/AIDS and poverty would be resolved during that year’s election period. The percentage of voters had dropped from the previous voting election with 76% voting in 2004, compared to 89% voting in 1999.



This election was held on the 22nd of April 2009 which included new political parties such as The Congress of the People (COPE) which stated that they would improve public participation in all forms of governance. In addition, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was announced to be President of South Africa on the 9th of May 2009 and soon after raised a lot of eyebrows when various stories around him surfaced. Think of Nkandla and the many other corruption scandals which affected his electoral campaign.



President Jacob Zuma announced that elections would take place on the7th of May 2014 which marked 20 years of democracy in South Africa. It allowed South Africans to reflect on the country’s history and ways to further better the country in the upcoming elections.



The statistics for the upcoming elections are shocking, with between 158 840 – 198 158 youth registered to vote. These figures are low compared to the number of elderly persons voting this year. The elections have been a rollercoaster ride since 1994 to now, with Cyril Ramaphosa as our current President a lot of changes have been made and have occurred. Such as the alarming gentrification in and around Cape Town, load-shedding, unemployment, corruption rates and let’s not forget the water crisis that took us all by surprise.


A lot has changed since 1994 with different political parties making empty promises and presidents implementing changes, thus this election is as important as previous elections especially for the youth. It’s important to occasionally go down memory lane to reflect on the importance of casting a ballot on this coming election.


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