Reuters A supporter holds the flag of the African National Congress (ANC) as South African president Cyril Ramaphosa (not pictured) speaks during the party’s final rally ahead of the upcoming elections at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa May 25, 2024Reuters

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) looks set to lose its parliamentary majority for the first time since Nelson Mandela led it to victory at the end of the racist system of apartheid in 1994.

It would herald the end of the party’s decades-long domination of South African politics, raise questions about the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa and usher in an era of coalition politics.

Here are three factors that explain how South Africa got here, why and what the future holds.

1) Behind the ANC’s free-fall

The ANC was once a revered liberation movement etched in the hearts of South Africans, but after three decades in power it has become synonymous with corruption and bad governance.

As a result it was punished in Wednesday’s election, especially by young people who came out in large numbers to vote against the party – something they never did in previous elections.

“They are fed up with corruption, and are worst affected by unemployment. They turned on the ANC,” said William Gumede, the chairman of the non-profit Democracy Works Foundation.

It marks a generational divide in South Africa – their parents are still loyal to the ANC, as they lived through apartheid and know, first-hand, the ANC’s rich history as a liberation movement that freed black people from the chains of apartheid.

But the ANC’s support among older voters has also declined, including in its rural heartlands.

“The ANC lost support in the big cities a long time ago. Now it is losing support in rural areas as well,” Prof Gumede told the BBC.

The ANC reached its electoral peak in 2004 when it won 70% of the vote. It has lost support of 3% or 4% in each election since then, reaching 58% in the 2019 poll.

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