Our last three elections were completed in a tranquil and harmonious atmosphere. A carnival mood prevailed while people of all races and political persuasions patiently awaited their turn at the polling booths.
We hope as a nation to collectively sustain and maintain that tradition.
The enthusiasm and interest of voters was displayed during the registration drive held in November last year and February this year when our voters roll swelled to 23 million.
If our great country is to be founded on the will of the people as expressed through free and fair elections, the good work of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa must be lauded.
A free election denotes that every person beyond a certain age is eligible to vote and those eligible to vote are able to, without let or hindrance, vote for the candidate of their personal choice.
A fair election denotes that votes are cast and counted fairly to establish the individuals who have gained majority, and the political parties their plurality.
Famous US President Thomas Jefferson once observed: "We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate."
In South Africa, a total of 19720, polling stations will be used in this year's election. Our records show that just more than 23 million South Africans are registered to vote out of a possible 28 million eligible voters.
Also, 9130 candidates appear on the various party lists. Forty parties are contesting the election for the national assembly and the nine provincial legislatures; 26 parties are contesting for the national assembly, 17937 applications for the special voting abroad in 106 countries were received and 215000 election officials have been recruited and trained.
These statistics show that South Africa's democracy is maturing and the 2009 election has generated a lot of interest in the country as we celebrate 15 years of democracy.
We are satisfied with the casting of special votes. We are proud that more than 17000 across the world applied to utilise the special voting privilege.
Voting at 106 South African missions abroad was coordinated. The ballots are on their way to South Africa. The IEC has received many applications for special votes for South Africans that took place yesterday and today.
We are ready to deliver a peaceful election to be witnessed by 4900 domestic observers and 352 international observers. About 358 diplomats from 61 embassies will also visit polling stations.
The presence of large numbers of local and international observersis clear testimony to the fact that our fourth election in our calendar of elections is eagerly awaited by the international community.
The turnout in the 2004 election was 77 percent. We hope to do even better this time.
Also, we are excited that young people, though not as stricken by apartheid as their parents, are keen on voting in the country's fifth elections.
They are aware that voting makes them part of the decision-making process and hope for a continuation of democracy and freedom.
These factors prove that the incentive and the ability to vote, to mobilise, and to be heard are the key ways in which the quality of one's democracy matters to the quality of development. A governance where all of the electorate is free to choose its representatives.
Our country has so far enjoyed a reputation of credible elections. Our political parties have always respected voters by creating space and environment for the electorate to be exposed to the diversity of this nation.
We hope all parties will continue to contest the elections in a robust manner but will abide by the spirit, principles and provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct that they have all signed.
The IEC can be viewed as a learning organisation which constantly applies relevant mechanisms, systems and processes that will ensure that all our elections are free and fair, credible and transparent.
As a learning organisation, we can never be perfect. That is why we continually listen to all our stakeholders, apply all our systems and follow due processes painstakingly so that we can significantly reduce human and other errors that may be discovered from time to time in our operations.
As the IEC, we cherish and use these constitutional guidelines and provisions to listen to the views of the voters, political parties, international and local observers, and virtually all our stakeholders in the running of elections
l Brigalia Bam is chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa