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S.African opposition sees ‘turning point’ in polls

South Africa’s main opposition leader Helen Zille said Wednesday’s local elections will be a “turning point” for democracy, saying voters were becoming more willing to cross racial lines.

“It’s going to be a turning point for South Africa because increasingly as our democracy matures, people are understanding exactly that voting for a party means voting for what they are going to be able to do for you over the next five years,” the Democratic Alliance leader said after casting her ballot.

“No party owns any voter permanently. Certainly no party owns any racial group in South Africa, and I think we’re going to be seeing that realisation more and more coming through across the board in this election.”

The Democratic Alliance, which won control of Cape Town from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the 2006 local elections, has tried to shed its image as a party for whites and make inroads among majority blacks.

Zille danced, sang and spoke in Xhosa to lure swing voters on the campaign trail. One opinion poll suggested that her party would claim nearly 20 percent of ballots, which would be its strongest-ever showing.

The ANC, the party of Nelson Mandela which led the liberation struggle, remains hugely popular despite growing discontent with the lack of basic services like water, electricity and housing in poor neighbourhoods.