The election that captured the world's attention in April 1994 released the pressure in a large and painful abscess that had grown in South Africa for decades. Before the election, while violence continued in the townships and throughout rural Kwa Zulu/ Natal, there were widespread fears that the election would be derailed by violence and intimidation. But the world witnessed one of the most uplifting events this half-century: 20 million voters cast ballots in a peaceful and free election. It had been a bitterly hard journey in which millions had suffered and many had died. But the chains had been finally broken, and the work of rebuilding the society could begin in earnest.
The African National Congress, with its leader Nelson Mandela, was the overwhelming winner, capturing 62.6 percent of the vote and thus 252 seats in the new parliament. The ANC won by a large margin in seven of the nine regions and in the other two regions made a strong second place showing. E. W. de Klerk's National Party won 20.4 percent of the vote (82 seats), while Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party won 10.5 percent (43 seats), mainly in Kwa Zulu/Natal. Four other parties are represented, each holding fewer than ten seats. The strong and widespread support given the new government bodes well for peace and prosperity.
There is no doubt that major challenges lie ahead for this government and the fledging democracy. But the goodwill of the people, patient through many years of oppression, has been underestimated by the Western media.