Ido Lekota and Anna Majavu
It is all systems go for political parties taking part in this year's election following the announcement by President Kgalema Motlanthe that South Africans will go to the polls on April 22.
Motlanthe announced the date in Parliament yesterday and opposition parties welcomed the announcement.
'The Independent Democrats have come of age. We have developed our party machinery over the past two years to reach the capacity required to double our votes," said leader Patricia de Lille.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said the announcement granted South Africans an opportunity to focus on evaluating the campaigns and policies of the various parties.
"The law enforcement agencies must be alert to prevent any intimidation and acts of political intolerance," said Holomisa.
The African Christian Democratic Party said it was confident that it would become part of a multi-party coalition government "because the ANC would not get more than 50percent of the votes".
"The anticipated multi-party government at national level will consolidate our hard-won democracy and improve the process of consultation, promote inclusivity and eliminate the arrogance characterised by the ruling party," said ACDP leader the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe.
The Democratic Alliance said this year's election promised to be the most exciting yet.
"The ANC has split and the DA has a chance to make historic gains.
"We are ready to take our offer of the open opportunity for all to every South African," said leader Hellen Zille.
Zille committed her party to a clean, peaceful election campaign. She challenged every other party "to do the same". "Let the election be free, fair and without political violence."
The ANC's Carl Niehaus said: "We are glad there is now certainty about the date - now we can roll out our election strategy to meet our targets."
"We will move with speed and participate fully," said Azanian People's Organisation deputy president Pandelani Nefolovhodwe.
The South African Communist Party said it was ready to deliver "an overwhelming ANC electoral victory".
Motlanthe told Parliament that racial disparities still characterised South African society.