South Africa heading for first change of government since apartheid ended

South Africa looks set for a change in government for the first time since the end of apartheid, according to partial results from the closest election in that time.

With more than half of votes counted across the country, the ruling African Nation Congress (ANC) is well short of a majority.

Less than 42% of voters have backed the ANC so far, well down on the 57.5% it received in the last national poll in 2019 and a far cry from the peak of 70% it polled in 2004.

It is still widely expected to be the largest party and to have the most seats in parliament, but will likely have to form a coalition to remain in power.

Any deal could include the leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance party, which has been polling at around 24% so far and whose leader, John Steenhuisen, has said he is open to working with the ANC.

Mr Steenhuisen said: "The way to rescue South Africa is to break the ANC's majority and we have done that.

"They are going to end up in the low forties and that obviously opens up a whole new universe for politics in South Africa and to start building something better for the people of South Africa."

He said he would have to first speak with a group of other parties that he has a pre-election agreement with and wouldn't open talks until after all the results were in.

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The ANC has been in power since Nelson Mandela led it to victory in the country's first multi-racial election in 1994 and has won a majority in the six national votes since.

If it finishes close to an overall majority, it may look to team up with the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who have been taking just under 10% of the votes logged so far.

But such a deal could spook financial markets, as the EFF has pledged to renationalise parts of the South African economy and seize land from white farmers.

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Much less likely is a deal with former ANC leader Jacob Zuma's MK party, which has said it won't work with the ANC.

Mr Zuma himself was banned from running because of a conviction for contempt of court in 2021 for refusing to testify at a judicial inquiry into government corruption.

Final results from Wednesday's election will be announced by Sunday, or possibly earlier, the country's electoral commission (IEC) has said.