South Africans are heading to the polls in what many call the most important election since apartheid ended in 1994. Over 27 million people are registered to vote, facing a record 70 parties and 11 independent candidates.

This election could mark the first time the African National Congress (ANC), in power since Nelson Mandela’s victory, might lose its majority, possibly needing a coalition to govern.

The election highlights widespread discontent with high unemployment, corruption, poor public services, and crime. The main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has teamed up with 10 other parties to challenge the ANC but is unlikely to win enough votes to oust them.

Former President Jacob Zuma, now leading a new party called uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), could shake things up, especially in his home province, KwaZulu-Natal. Women make up 55% of the voters, and the 30-39 age group has the highest registration. However, many young people haven’t registered, feeling excluded and hopeless.

Some, like 29-year-old Keabetswe Maleka from Soweto, won’t vote due to unemployment and poor services, while others, like 66-year-old Mawela Rezant, hope the new government will tackle these issues.

Security forces are ensuring safe and fair voting across the country. This crucial election could either strengthen South Africa’s democracy or make it more fragmented.

This summary is based on information from the BBC.

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