BEKKERSDAL, South Africa - In this drab township pocked by ponds of raw sewage and piles of uncollected trash, voters who lined up Wednesday to cast ballots in South Africa's election aired similar complaints: lack of jobs, lack of sewer pipes, uncollected trash, poor government services and the seemingly endless wait for free government housing.
In a township emblematic of South African disaffection - the site of repeated riots and bombings in recent months - some people had begun waiting at dawn to vote for the party they've always supported, the governing African National Congress, which freed black South Africans from apartheid. Others were there to back one of many opposition parties. Still others, standing in the sun on street corners, shrugged and said voting was pointless because nothing ever changed.
Bekkersdal, on the southwestern fringe of Johannesburg, is branded on the national consciousness because of a news photograph in March that showed police opening fire on terrified residents with rubber bullets from just 2 yards away. Opposition parties used the image in their campaign ads.
Hundreds of police officers and soldiers were deployed here Wednesday after voting facilities were set on fire on election eve. In recent months, the community hall and other government buildings were burned in riots; in March, door-to-door campaigners with the ANC were attacked by a mob.
Voters lined up for hours Wednesday for parliamentary and provincial elections, the fifth since full democracy arrived in 1994. Polls suggested that the ANC would command about 65 percent of the vote. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, was expected to take about 23 percent.
Assuming the ANC wins a parliamentary majority, its leader, Jacob Zuma, will probably remain South Africa's president. The post is filled by the lower house.
Chief election commissioner Pansy Tlakula said turnout was "extremely high."