South Africa’s main political party records worst post-Apartheid election result

South Africa's main political party, once led by Nelson Mandela, has recorded its worst election result in 30 years.
South Africa's main political party, once led by Nelson Mandela, has recorded its worst election result in 30 years.

South Africa’s main political party has lost its majority in the country’s election for the first time since the end of the Apartheid era, 30 years ago.

40% of votes from last Wednesday’s election were for the African National Congress (ANC). It’s the first time the party’s popularity has dipped below 50% since 1994.

ANC was once led by anti-Apartheid activist Mandela, whose presidency marked the end of a system that legalised racial segregation in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela’s party

Throughout much of the 20th century, South Africa separated people based on race under a policy called Apartheid.

The Government passed laws limiting or banning non-white people’s movements, education, jobs, pay, and marriage, among other restrictions.

Following decades of protest and upheaval, the ANC won the country’s first modern elections in 1994, securing 63% of votes.

After that year’s election, Mandela became the President.

Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Rampahosa became President of South Africa in 2018, replacing then-ANC leader Jacob Zuma, who faced allegations of corruption.

Ramaphosa has faced several criminal allegations, including tax evasion. He’s denied all wrongdoing.

In 2022, an attempted impeachment (removal of an official from office) of Ramaphosa failed in Parliament.

Political issues

The World Bank, a global financial body aimed at limiting poverty, said South Africa has “one of the highest and most persistent inequality rates in the world”.

Unemployment is at 32.9%, compared to Australia’s unemployment rate of 4%.

Crime rates are also high in South Africa. The latest police data shows there was an average of one murder every 20 minutes from October to December 2023.

An energy crisis has seen planned power outages become more frequent, impacting businesses and infrastructure.


A national election is held in South Africa once every five years. After voting last week, the ANC (Ramaphosa’s party) recorded just over 40% of the vote, where voter turnout was also historically low (59%).

It’s the first time since the ANC came to power in 1994 that it has fallen into minority rule. This means it’ll likely need to negotiate with a smaller party to form a coalition government.

The main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, recorded the second highest vote at about 22%. It promised to fight crime and corruption during its campaign.

What now?

South African voters elect the Parliament’s 400 MPs. However, they do not choose the President.

The MPs will decide the country’s leader. A candidate must win at least 201 votes to become President.

Since the ANC has previously won more than 50% of seats, it has had the power to choose the President.

Ramaphosa is now expected to negotiate with other parties to secure his future as President.

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