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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The 1994 Elections

Until the nonracial elections in April 1994, the laws of apartheid governed elections. An elections administrator, or chief electoral officer, prepared a list based on the population registry of people who were qualified to register as voters. They had to be more than eighteen years of age and, under the 1983 constitution, to belong to one of the constituencies of the three racially based houses of parliament--white, coloured, and Indian (see Limited Reforms, ch. 1). In the 1989 parliamentary election, for example, only 2,176,481 votes were cast, out of 3,170,667 registered voters and a total population of almost 28 million.

In the April 1994 national and provincial elections, nineteen political parties, representing the country's diverse constituencies, participated in the electoral process. Each voter received two ballots and cast two votes (enabling each voter to choose different parties at the national and the provincial levels). Voters selected a political party, not an individual candidate, to represent them in the National Assembly and in the provincial legislature. Each party had prepared ranked lists of delegates for the national and the provincial legislatures. Political parties gained seats in each body proportionally, according to the number of votes each party received, and party delegates became legislators based on their ranking on the appropriate list.

The number of eligible voters in 1994 was estimated at 21.7 million--about 16 million of whom had never voted before. In a radical departure from previous electoral practice, no formal voter register was prepared; instead, voters were asked to present identity books as proof of citizenship, and even this requirement was enforced with flexibility. Officials had determined before the elections that about 2.5 million people--mostly blacks--lacked identity books, and most of these were given temporary identity papers. For most residents of the homelands, valid travel documents were accepted as legal identification.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) created a state electoral fund with an estimated 22 million rands (for value of the rand--see Glossary) to finance the April 1994 elections. Half of that amount was distributed among participating political parties before the election, and the balance afterward. The first payment was made in late March 1994 to nine parties that had submitted documentation of popular support.

During the campaign, political parties were hampered by several factors. One of the major challenges was the need to educate the electorate, particularly those who had never voted before, in basic elements of democracy and electoral procedures. For example, there was a great deal of skepticism about democratic practices--such as the secret ballot--particularly in rural areas where literacy rates are low, and where traditional leaders and white employers had often manipulated political participation in the past. In addition, the political violence leading up to the elections threatened to keep many potential first-time voters away from the polls. ANC voters felt especially vulnerable in KwaZulu, Bophuthatswana, and Ciskei, where the apartheid-era homeland leaders and security forces had harassed and intimidated ANC supporters. Similarly, in ANC-controlled areas, some of that party's activists intimidated IFP, NP, and even liberal Democratic Party (DP) organizers and disrupted their campaign rallies, despite ANC leaders' pleas for tolerance. Finally, the election posed a logistical nightmare for the IEC, which had to accommodate the IFP's last-minute decision to participate in the elections and add the party's name to the ballots. The IEC helped monitor the more-than-9,000 polling stations and was responsible for verifying the vote count before it was announced.

The IEC reported that it had counted 19,726,579 ballots and rejected 193,081 as invalid. The voting was declared generally free and fair. Observer missions from the United Nations (UN), British Commonwealth, European Union (EU--see Glossary), and Organization of African Unity (OAU) issued this statement: "South Africans' confidence in the secrecy of the ballot was manifest and they were able to participate freely in the elections. The outcome of the elections reflects the will of the people of South Africa."

Seven political parties won seats in the National Assembly, the ANC, 252 seats (representing 62.6 percent of the popular vote); the NP, 82 seats (20.4 percent); the IFP, 43 seats (10.5 percent); the Freedom Front (FF), 9 seats (2.2 percent); the DP, 7 seats (1.7 percent); the PAC, 5 seats (1.2 percent); and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), 2 seats (0.5 percent). Twelve other parties received too few votes to be represented in the National Assembly. Each of the seven major parties also won representation in at least one of the nine provincial legislatures. The ANC won a majority in seven provincial legislatures. The NP won a majority in the Western Cape; and the IFP did so in KwaZulu-Natal (see table 18, Appendix).

Source: U.S. Library of Congress

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.