May 7 - South Africa's first 'born free' election underway with the ruling ANC looking set for victory despite scandals and slow economic growth. Rough cut (no reporter narration)
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ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION
South Africa holds its first "Born Free" election on Wednesday although polls suggest the allure of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as the conqueror of apartheid will prevail even among voters with no memory of white-minority rule.
The voters this time include the first generation to come of age after the fall of apartheid.
Opinion polls in South Africa's Sunday Times over the last two months have put ANC support at around 65 percent, only a shade lower than the 65.9 percent it won in the 2009 election that brought President Jacob Zuma to power.
The resilience of ANC support has surprised analysts who a year ago were saying it could struggle at the polls as its glorious past recedes into history and voters focus instead on the sluggish economic growth and slew of scandals that have typified Zuma's first term.
South Africa's top anti-graft agency accused Zuma this year of "benefiting unduly" from a $23 million state-funded security upgrade to his private home at Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal province that included a swimming pool and chicken run.
His personal approval ratings have dipped since the findings by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. But at a news conference this week to conclude the ANC election campaign, the 72-year-old brushed aside suggestions the imbroglio was damaging the party.
Africa's most sophisticated economy has struggled to recover from a 2009 recession - its first since the 1994 demise of apartheid - and the ANC's efforts to stimulate growth and tackle 25 percent unemployment have been hampered by powerful unions.
Barring a major upset, the stock market and rand should take the vote in their stride and could even gain if South Africa's reputation for stability relative to other emerging markets such as Brazil, Ukraine or Turkey is affirmed.
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