Pretoria - Despite chilly weather conditions, voting got under way in the protest-torn Zithobeni, Rethabiseng and Ekangala townships near Bronkhorstspruit.

Heavy mist had filled the air by the time voting stations opened as scheduled at 7am.

The residents joined more than 25 million South Africans registered to vote in the national and provincial elections.

There were some interesting choices of voting stations at Zithobeni in particular, in the form of a liquor store and the community hall that was partly destroyed by residents during service delivery protests in February.

The liquor store had been closed for the day and converted into a voting station, while the community hall, with its broken windows and fence, was demarcated by a tape with police keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings.

A voter who attempted to use a passport as a form of identification was turned back at one voting station.

In another, the presiding officer prevented the Pretoria News photographer from taking photos, saying “when allegations of vote selling come up, I do not want them to be from my voting station”.

Generally, voting was proceeding smoothly in all three townships, and the stations were under police guard, as promised by the Independent Electoral Commission.

Senior citizens were being assisted by uniformed members of the local residents forum and volunteers in ANC-branded T-shirts.

At Ekangala, the ANC was campaigning outside the Hlolisisa Primary School and giving out refreshments, including oranges, bread and biscuits to voters.

Campaigning and political gatherings ended at midnight, and such activities are prohibited on voting day.

The townships, whose dysfunctional municipalities were dissolved and incorporated into the City of Tshwane, were scenes of violent protests which culminated in clashes between police and the residents.

At the time, residents threatened to boycott the election. This sparked fear that voting in these areas may be disrupted.

Surprise Mohlala, in Zithobeni, said he was happy to have voted, and nothing was going to stop him from exercising his democratic right.

“I have voted and all went well despite what the doomsayers had said about our area. I was in and out of the voting station in less than 10 minutes,” he said.

There were minor problems like that of ageing couple Phineas and Betty Zulu, both 90, who went to the wrong voting station and had to be assisted to board a taxi to another area.

Lebogang Komane, a so-called “born-free” who was voting for the first time, said: “It feels great that my vote will be counted and contribute to the future of the country. It's a great feeling.”

Ndiwe Mahlangu, at 103, was one of the oldest voters when she cast her ballot just after 8am in Zithobeni.

Pretoria News