South Africa Election 2024: ANC Faces Challenges as First Results Announced
South Africa Election 2024: ANC Faces Challenges as First Results Announced

South Africa has seen the first results from what is being called one of its most closely contested elections since the African National Congress (ANC) came into power three decades ago.

With approximately 19% of voting districts counted so far, the ANC is leading with 43%, followed by the DA with 25%. The EFF has garnered about 9%, while the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party) of former President Jacob Zuma has secured around 8%.

Final results are expected over the weekend. The initial results indicate that the ANC may lose its parliamentary majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela led the party to victory in 1994, ending the apartheid era.

South Africa's News24 website has projected that the ANC's final vote could drop to around 42%, down significantly from the 57% it obtained in the 2019 election. The ANC is facing heavy losses to the MK Party, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, Mr. Zuma's home region and the province with the second-highest number of votes.

Mr. Zuma, despite being barred from running for parliament due to a conviction for contempt of court, led the MK Party's campaign. His name appeared on the ballot paper as the MK leader.

Wednesday's election saw long lines of voters outside polling stations late into the night across the country. The key issues for voters were widespread corruption in government, high levels of unemployment, and rampant crime.

One electoral official in Johannesburg likened the queues to those seen during the historic 1994 election, when black South Africans voted for the first time.

Sifiso Buthelezi, who voted in Johannesburg's Joubert Park, the largest polling station in South Africa, told the BBC: "Freedom is great but we need to tackle corruption."

Change was a prevailing sentiment, particularly among young voters. Ayanda Hlekwane, a member of South Africa's "born-free" generation (those born after 1994), expressed frustration about unemployment despite having three degrees.

A record number of parties, 70, and 11 independents contested in this election, reflecting widespread disillusionment with the ANC. The Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition party, has formed a pact with 10 other parties to form a coalition government if they can dislodge the ANC from power.

However, this scenario seems unlikely, as the ANC is expected to remain the largest party, putting it in a prime position to lead a coalition government if its support does fall below 50%.

In South Africa, voters do not directly elect a president; they vote for members of parliament who then elect the president. More than 27 million people were registered to vote, with a significant percentage of young voters who could have a decisive impact.

Njabulo Hlophe, a 28-year-old artist, emphasized the importance of young people in South Africa, saying, "This is as much our country as our parents... they're leaving it to us, so someone that really cares about the young people is someone I’m really looking at."

Support for the ANC is expected to be higher among older generations. Eighty-nine-year-old Elayne Dykman in Durban expressed hope that young South Africans do not take their vote for granted.

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