Pretoria – Voting for the 2016 local government elections began smoothly at most stations where News24 reporters across the country were based at 07:00 on Wednesday.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the crowing of roosters signalled the beginning of a new day as IEC staff got ready to receive voters at the Ntolwane Primary School in Nkandla.
Staff arrived around 04:00 to put up sign boards and banners at the school where President Jacob Zuma was expected to vote later.
First in the queue and set to be the first voter at the station was Gwema Hlongwane, from KwaNxamalala village, who arrived at 03:00.
"I wanted to be first in the line because I want to return home early," said Hlongwane.
The elderly man, who did not know his age, said he wanted an RDP house. "We are living in mud houses," said Hlongwane.
One voter, Gogo Ntombozi MaNtuli Nene, was another early bird. "I woke up at 03:00 and got ready. We left the house at around 04:00," said Nene.
She was accompanied by her neighbour and best friend Busisiwe Khanyile. "We need RDP houses. Our children are hungry, we need jobs," said Khanyile.
In Morningside, Durban, a group of residents were waiting outside the Livingstone Primary School.
David Howes, 60, had started walking from Umbilo, nearly 12km away, at 19:00 on Tuesday. He was first in the line to submit his ballot.
"This is important and it's why I walked all night. I sat at a petrol station and now I'm here," he said. He said he had voted every time there had been an election. "I just want a good change."
Durban petrol station attendant Mary Ngcobo, 53, had resigned herself to the fact that she would only have an hour of sleep on Tuesday night because she wanted to vote.
Ngcobo worked her night shift at a Morningside petrol station and waited for transport to take her home, where she would queue to vote.
"I have to do this, I am voting for this!" she said, pointing to an ANC advert in a discarded newspaper on her table.
In Nkandla, President Jacob Zuma's son, Edward, arrived at the Ntolwane Primary School. He was ready to vote for the ANC. "My vote is not a secret," he said.
Second in the short queue, Phumelele Bhengu, 44, from KwaNxamalala village, said she woke up at 03:00 to vote.
"I am going to vote for Zuma because I love him and he is our neighbour. I want him to continue to govern," said Bhengu.
President Jacob Zuma's own backyard is an IFP stronghold, and the current mayor of the town, which falls under the Uthungulu District Municipality, is an IFP member.
In Dunoon, Cape Town, people hurried in two directions along dark, wet roads while officials prepared to open voting stations. People either rushed to the busy bus and taxi terminal to get to work, or to the voting station.
A councillor's house was burnt down and several protests over land were held recently in the suburb, which consists mostly of shacks. EFF leader Julius Malema included Dunoon on his campaign trail and deplored residents' living conditions.
Mzondeleli Ngoshe and Victor Saula struck up a quick friendship as they stood at the front of the queue. "This is very important," said Ngoshe.
Armed with a steaming cup of coffee, carpenter Alex Ezaza was the first man in line at the voting station at Eersterivier Secondary on elections day, where the voting station had not yet opened by 07:10.
The 35-year-old first time voter said he still had to rush off to work as he had no idea what the queues would look like. He has been here since 6:00 and it was his first time at the polls.
"Nothing the politicians said in the past ever really interested me. But this year there was one party which made commitments to issues that affect my community, like safety and development. So here I am, in the cold, hoping to make a difference."
Arriving at the same polling station, one man said he had told his wife to "rise and shine en kom vote, sommer met jou slippers aan".
"She refused, saying Mandela wouldn't want us to disrespect this right by coming with a swirlkous!" he laughed.
Cape Town City Bowl
Meanwhile, two City Bowl-based, Cape Town residents turned the journey to their polling station into an "amazing race".
Before an official had even put up an elections banner at Tamboerskloof Primary, Eunice Melamane jumped out of her taxi and claimed the first spot in the queue.
Shortly thereafter, Rudolf Von Oirschot paced up the dark road to the school to claim second place. "You cheated! You used a taxi. I had to walk," he said lightheartedly to her.
In Gauteng, it was an early start for IEC officials at Kaya Beach restaurant in Grootfontein, near Garsfontein, Pretoria.
Euan Nicholl, the party agent for DA, felt upbeat about how proceedings would go at the voting station where Tshwane mayoral candidate Thoko Didiza was expected to cast her vote.
"We believe everything will go well," Nicholl said.
A long queue of dedicated voters waited outside the Allen Glen High School, where DA leader Mmusi Maimane was expected to cast his vote later. He matriculated from the school in 1997.
In the Eastern Cape, a group of Beacon Bay pensioners lined up to vote at the Beaconhurst Primary School. Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle was expected to vote there a little after 08:00.
In Port Elizabeth, IEC officials at a voting station in New Brighton prayed for guidance before getting ready.
In East London, Val Pitcher, 83, said she would brave the weather to make a contribution to South Africa, "To help build a future for my grandchildren."
Some Bloemfontein residents were also up early.
"I believe after voting we are going to have someone who is going to bring us change," said Litaba Mokhotsana, who lived a few blocks away from the voting station at Rekgonne Primary School.
Another resident, Karele Nto, 61, said it was important to "vote out laziness".
"I am here to vote for toilets actually. We want proper toilets and after this we better have toilets – I don't want a lot, just toilets," he said.
Voting station delays
Voting had not started at this voting station in Bloemfontein by 07:10.
Voting had also not started at the Freeway Park Primary voting station in Boksburg, on Johannesburg's East Rand, by 07:10. This was where ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe was set to vote.
In Tlokwe, two first-time voters, students from North West University, Janka van Zyl and Chante Truter, were eager to be among the first to make their cross.
- Find everything you need to know about the 2016 Local Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections, or download the app for iOS and Android.