South Africa will this weekend begin voter registration ahead of next year's key polls, which for the first time will see ballots cast by those born after the end of apartheid.

President Jacob Zuma urged young South Africans to register for the election, which will mark two decades since the end of white-minority rule in 1994.

"This group is special because it will vote when the country is celebrating 20 years of freedom and democracy," Zuma said on Friday, referring to those born in 1994.

The country's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will launch a national drive to register new voters on Saturday and Sunday.

Police and the armed forces will be deployed to some registration areas, though a peaceful process is expected.

Over 23 million people are currently registered, 73 percent of eligible voters.

The government wants to add two million people to the roll.

Many first-timers will be the so-called "born frees", born the year Nelson Mandela became the country's first black president after the end of white-minority rule.

Zuma, who is expected to run for re-election, said voting in the polls expected in April would be the best way to celebrate 20 years of freedom.

The upcoming vote will determine the level of support for Zuma's African National Congress (ANC), in power since 1994.

The party garnered 65.9 percent of the vote in the 2009 elections, slightly lower than its previous win, while official opposition the Democratic Alliance took 16.7 percent.

But the ANC has seen some decline in popularity amid hundreds of violent protests over poor service delivery since the last polls.

The next vote will also test support for Julius Malema, who was key to Zuma's election in 2009 but later booted from the ruling party.

His Economic Freedom Fighters party says it advocates the rights of the poor and supports the nationalisation of mines and the forced expropriation of white-owned farms.

 

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