Ruling party has over 60 percent of vote with half of the ballots counted, while Democratic Alliance gets 22.5 percent. South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) has taken a clear lead in the country's first 'born free' elections where a new generation of South Africans who never experienced firsthand apartheid, voted for the first time. Results released by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) showed the ANC with over 60 percent of the vote after about half of the ballots was counted.
Its nearest rival, the Democratic Alliance, held 22.5 percent, in line with predictions the party would improve on the 16.7 percent it won five years ago as it gradually sheds its image as the political home of privileged whites. The leftwing Economic Freedom Fighters, led by Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ANC, was in third place with nearly 5 percent. While voting in the fifth election since the end of apartheid ran smoothly, an IEC spokesman said it was investigating the killing of what the ANC said was one of its members.
The ANC, which led the fight against apartheid, has dominated politics since Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president in 1994. Pre-election polls had put ANC support near 65 percent, a little below the 65.9 percent it won in the 2009 election that brought Zuma to power. Jabulani Radebe, a staunch ANC member who has lived in both Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, told Al Jazeera that the results were not surprising. "I am not surprised because even though people have criticised President Zuma, we as members separate the leaders from the party. It means that even if Zuma is gone tomorrow, it shows the ANC is still strong and will go on," he said.
"It seems the opposition spent a lot of time attacking the ANC rather than offering alternatives and maybe this benefitted us." Radebe added. The country's economy has struggled to recover from a 2009 recession - its first since 1994 - and the ANC's efforts to stimulate growth and tackle 25 percent unemployment have been hampered by powerful unions. South Africa's top anti-corruption agency accused Zuma this year of "benefiting unduly" from a $23m state-funded security upgrade to his private home at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal that included a swimming pool and chicken run. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing and defended the upgrades as necessary for the protection of a head of state. He confidently announced on Monday the Nkandla controversy was "not an issue with the voters".