South Africans are voting and many are hoping for a change as momentous as Mandela’s rise

During previous election cycles, South Africans had said they took it for granted that the ANC would retain its overall majority. But the party, which won nearly 58% in the last vote in 2019, recorded a low of 40 votes this year, fueling growing expectations that something could change in this election, voters said.

The weak poll numbers also motivated ANC officials, who during the campaign focused on engaging disenchanted supporters who had stopped turning out to vote. Given that voter turnout appeared strong at many polling stations, no one could guess whether this was a good sign for the incumbent party – signaling that its supporters were returning to the polls – or for the numerous challengers, who hope to mobilize new voters.

A former ANC liberation fighter decided to contest this election, after the last vote in 1994. But it wasn’t for his old party.

Isaac Modise, voting in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, said he supported Zuma’s party. It was his way of motivating the ANC to improve, Modise, 66, said.

“We want the ANC to go back and become a people’s organisation,” he said.