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  • Julius Malema, leader of South Africa's the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters Party (EFF) party casts his ballot for the country's parliamentary and provincial elections, in Polokwane, South Africa, May 8, 2019.

    Julius Malema, leader of South Africa's the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters Party (EFF) party casts his ballot for the country's parliamentary and provincial elections, in Polokwane, South Africa, May 8, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 May 2019

Opinion polls suggest the ANC will again win a majority of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, but analysts have predicted its margin of victory will fall.

The African National Congress faced its toughest electoral test Wednesday as it sought to reverse a slide in support from voters frustrated by graft and racial inequalities a generation after it won power in South Africa's first all-race poll.

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South Africa is holding parliamentary and provincial elections amid frustration with a lack of progress 25 years after Nelson Mandela’s ANC swept to power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Queues built up at polling stations through the morning. Some polling stations around Johannesburg opened late or did not have voting materials.

Officials have said the results could be announced Saturday.

The national election is the first under President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018 after four years as his deputy.

Opinion polls suggest the ANC will again win a majority of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, but analysts have predicted its margin of victory will fall.

"I'm a member of the ANC but I didn't vote for them this time," said construction worker Thabo Makhene, 32, in the commercial hub of Johannesburg.

"They need to catch a wake-up. The way they run the state, mishandling state funds, they’ve lost their morals."

Pete Mokokosi, a 77-year-old pensioner, said he felt South Africans needed change, a better economy, education, and jobs.

"They have made mistakes before but this time we have the right man," said Alpheus Zihle, 69, a pensioner in Alexandra township in Johannesburg who said he would vote for the ANC.

The ANC's biggest challenges are the main opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Analysts have put that falling support for ANC down to corruption allegations against government officials, a slowing economy with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, and demands from Black citizens for more equitable distribution of land.

Ramaphosa - who became ANC leader after narrowly defeating a faction allied with Zuma - has promised to improve service delivery, create jobs and fight corruption. But his reforms have been held up by divisions and opposition within his own party.

"Reforms will remain at best one-step-forward, one-step-back and so potential growth will not rise," Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex, said in a note.

Africa's most industrialized economy grew at an estimated 0.8 percent in 2018 after recovering from a recession in the first half of the year when a drought hit farming, although blackouts at power utility Eskom continue to drag on activity. Growth is forecast at 1.5 percent this year.

"If you need change, the EFF is the way to go," said  EFF's leader Julius Malema, whose party won 6 percent of the vote in 2014, making it the third-largest presence in parliament.

It wants to nationalize mines and banks and played a key role in holding Zuma to account for spending state money on non-security upgrades to his private residence.

"We've made mistakes, but we are sorry about those mistakes, and we are saying our people should re-invest their confidence in us," the president said. "We are going to correct the bad ways of the past," he said.

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