Johannesburg - The South African government welcomed international election observers to the country ahead of Wednesday's general elections, the department of international relations said on Monday.

Observers were dispatched from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union and the Commonwealth to follow the elections, spokesman Clayson Monyela said in a statement.

The United Nations was also invited to send observers.

“In addition, ambassadors and high commissioners accredited to South Africa have been invited by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to visit polling stations throughout the country; and this invitation is not transferable.”

This was not necessarily a standard international practice, as not all countries extended this courtesy to the diplomatic corps.

“In fact in South Africa it was previously extended beyond just the Ambassador/High Commissioner.

“And we do this even for countries that don't extend the same courtesy to us during their own elections.”

The international election observers would be spread across all nine provinces to assess the South African electoral process and monitor compliance with international standards.

Government urged everyone participating in the election to co-operate with the observers.

“The practice of foreign countries and international organisations monitoring elections is accepted as one of the ways in which the international community can monitor and promote compliance with democratic values, principles and practices,” Monyela said.

South African election observers had been sent to other countries, mainly in Africa, over the last 20 years.

Sapa