The polls have closed in #SouthAfricaDecides2019 and we wait for the people’s verdict. It was peaceful, free and – from what I could see – it was fair. These are no small things to those with a longer memory of this country.
Provincial results are also being highly anticipated, particularly in Gauteng, where the opposition is hoping to make inroads.
If the ANC vote drops below 50% it could lose control of the biggest, richest province.
The ANC currently controls eight of South Africa’s nine provinces.
Why did the president apologise?
Casting his vote in the country’s sixth democratic national election since apartheid ended 25 years ago, President Ramaphosa acknowledged the “rampant corruption” of recent years.
“We have made mistakes but we have been sorry about those mistakes and we are saying our people should reinvest their confidence in us,” he said.
“Corruption got into the way, patronage got into the way and not focusing on the needs of our people got in the way.”
The ANC, which led the fight against apartheid, has governed the country since 1994.
The men who would be president:
Why has the ANC lost support?
Young people queuing to vote spoke of their difficulties in finding jobs, with unemployment at 27%.
One young voter said her future employment prospects were on her mind. “I don’t feel confident about getting the job I want,” she said.
“I’m a member of the ANC but I didn’t vote for them this time,” construction worker Thabo Makhene told Reuters news agency. “They need to catch a wake-up. The way they run the state, mishandling state funds, they’ve lost their morals.”
However, many voters stayed loyal to the ANC.
I am celebrating the fact that our country is now ruled by black people”
Esau Zwane, 90, waiting to vote in Soweto, Johannesburg, lived under white-minority rule. He told the BBC he was celebrating “that our country is now ruled by black people”.
Votes are cast for parties, with seats in the 400-member National Assembly allocated according to the share of the vote gained by each party.
These MPs then elect a president.
Election in numbers:
26.76 million registered voters
55% of them are female
A record 48 parties on the ballot
28,757 voting stations
220,000 members of electoral staff
Six million young people did not register to vote
How big an issue is land reform?
Apartheid, in place from 1948 to 1994, legalised racial discrimination privileging white people, and land ownership has remained a contentious issue.
The white minority still owns disproportionately more land than the black majority. The EFF has led the charge in trying to change this.
The BBC’s Andrew Harding in Johannesburg says the party’s stance has forced the ANC to consider drastic measures to transfer more land, more quickly, into black hands, which has resulted in a pledge to conduct land expropriation without compensation.
However, the DA says it does not believe land reform needs to be “carried out in a way that takes from one to give to another”, and instead promises to prioritise land reform in the budget and to release unused government land.
Other election issues include discontent over poor basic services such as water, housing and electricity, and anger over violent crime.