ANC on course to losing its majority in SAfrica vote

The African National Congress appears on course to lose the parliamentary majority it has held for 30 years, partial results from South Africa's national election show, in what would be the most dramatic political shift since the end of apartheid.

If the final results confirm the loss of its majority, the ANC will be forced to make a deal with one or more other parties to govern - a situation that could lead to unprecedented political volatility in the coming weeks or months.

With results in from 16.7 per cent of polling stations, the ANC's share of the vote in Wednesday's election stood at 42.5 per cent, with the pro-business Democratic Alliance (DA) on 25.8 per cent, data from the electoral commission showed on Thursday.

The Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party was on 8.5 per cent, while uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new party led by former president Jacob Zuma, was snapping at its heels on eight per cent.

"I don't think it's likely for the ANC to reach a majority," said pollster Reza Omar of Citizen Surveys, noting that while the picture would evolve, it was unlikely to change to that extent.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa casts his ballot
Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to remain president, with the ANC on track to remain the largest party. (AP PHOTO)

South African broadcaster eNCA projected that the ANC's final score would land on the 45 per cent mark while the DA would remain the largest opposition party on 21 per cent.

"The ANC looks forward to a clear mandate from voters to continue the work of transforming South Africa and building a better life for all," the party said in a statement.

Under South Africa's constitution, the newly elected National Assembly will elect the next president.

With the ANC still on course to be the largest party, that is likely to be its leader Cyril Ramaphosa, the incumbent.

However, a poor showing could make him vulnerable to a leadership challenge from within party ranks, whether in the immediate future or at some point during his term.

The ANC has won national elections held every five years since the landmark 1994 election, which marked the end of apartheid and the ascent of Nelson Mandela as president.

But since those heady days the ANC's support has declined because of disillusionment over issues such as high unemployment and crime, frequent power blackouts and corruption.

At provincial level, the early results showed the ANC on 35.7 per cent, the DA on 29.6 per cent per cent and the EFF on 10.8 per cent in the key province of Gauteng, which includes the country's business capital Johannesburg.

In Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where the major city of Durban is located, his MK party was performing strongly, with 43.2 per cent of the vote versus 21.7 per cent for the ANC.

Zuma was forced to quit as president in 2018 after a string of scandals and has since fallen out with the ANC leadership, leading him to throw his weight behind MK.

The party appeared to be costing both the ANC and the EFF votes.

The electoral commission has seven days to declare full results, but in practice it is usually faster than that.

The new parliament must convene within 14 days of final results being declared and its first act must be to elect the nation's president.

This means that if the ANC is confirmed to have lost its majority there could be two weeks of negotiations to agree on how to form a new government.