- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

JOHANNESBURG — Accounting clerk Events Ranenyine rose in his tiny room on the northern outskirts of Johannesburg on Wednesday, washed in a basin of water he had collected the day before from the faucet down a rutted dirt street, and then picked his way past piles of trash to his polling station — a tent set up in the yard of a tin-shack church.

Wednesday’s local government vote came less than 20 years after South Africa’s first multiracial election and could start a shift toward a more robust multiparty system.

The dominant African National Congress (ANC) party, which has controlled the country since 1994, faces its strongest challenge yet amid accusations that it has not done enough to alleviate poverty and provide services.

But Mr. Ranenyine, 29, who said he voted for the ANC, said he believes the party that defeated apartheid deserves one more chance.

Mr. Ranenyine said he waited two hours to vote in the last local elections in 2006. Wednesday, he waited only 40 minutes.

He said many of his neighbors had chosen to stay home because they did not want to vote for the ANC but also did not have faith in other parties.

“They’re tired,” he said of his neighbors. “They’re so very tired of being lied to.”

The ANC is expected to win in the overwhelming majority of the country’s 278 municipalities. But the party is accused of being riddled with corruption and failing to keep up with the demand for decent housing, schools, running water and other basics.

That could be an opportunity for the main opposition Democratic Alliance, known as the DA, which has its roots in a white liberal anti-apartheid party but has been hobbled by an inability to attract black voters. The DA is seen as pro-business and boasts that it has run an efficient administration in Cape Town, South Africa’s main tourist city.

Already, a chastened ANC has made changes, giving local communities more of a say in picking candidates. President Jacob Zuma also has promised that his national government will ensure that local governments perform.

Mr. Ranenyine’s Zandspruit is a neighborhood crammed with tiny shacks. Gladys Tshombo, 70, lives alone in one, with no electricity or running water.

Ms. Tshombo said rats are a problem, and that she’s seen no improvements since moving here soon after the 1994 election that ended apartheid.

She voted for the ANC because she idolized its leader, Nelson Mandela, in 1994. She voted for the party again Wednesday.

“I love ANC,” Ms. Tshombo said. “As time goes on, things might improve.”

Zandspruit has seen violent protests in recent months by people who say the ANC has been slow to meet their needs. On Wednesday, Mr. Ranenyine said the protests were as important as voting in getting politicians’ attention.

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