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June 24, 2017

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Victorious ANC pledges 'radical' S. Africa change

PRETORIA, South Africa -- South Africa's ruling ANC pledged to "radically" boost black economic power as counting of the final votes Friday showed the party headed for a resounding election victory.

With fewer than two percent of voting districts still counting by midday Friday, the ANC had garnered a thumping 62.2 percent of the popular vote, spelling a parliamentary majority big enough to hand embattled President Jacob Zuma a second five-year term.

But it would still fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution and will see its winning margin reduced for a second consecutive election, down from 66 percent at the last poll.

The main opposition party, the centrist Democratic Alliance, made gains boosted by a strong urban turnout.

Its share of the vote rose to 22.2 percent, up from 17 percent at the last election in 2009, according to the incomplete results.

Julius Malema's populist Economic Freedom Fighters was in third place with 6.2 percent of the vote, less than a year after the party was formed. It garnered more than one million votes.

Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba told AFP the ANC will use its fresh electoral mandate to "radically" boost black business.

"The fact of the matter is black South Africans continue to feel a sense of social injustice in terms of economic ownership patterns as well as the ownership of the land," said the ANC number three, who is tipped to head the party one day.

"We need to implement programs that are going radically to change that."

Gigaba admitted ANC policies that forced existing white-owned businesses take on a proportion of black shareholders had created problems.

"We want a program that creates a real legacy in the form of building industry," the 42-year-old said.

Both DA and EFF support was bolstered by a series of corruption scandals surrounding Zuma and frustration at rampant poverty and poor public services.

But voters appeared to put storied party before sullied president because of a lack of alternatives.

"There's a strong critique of the ANC but in terms of available other options there is a lack of trust in other parties," said Cherrell Africa, head of politics at the University of the Western Cape.

The DA will hold onto power in the Western Cape province, the only one of the nine provinces where the ANC was beaten into second place, but is widely seen as a party of whites and to be struggling to win black votes.

"Race is of course always important. Our society is structured racially, so race is important but I don't think it's race-based voting as such," said Africa.

"Voters just can't see themselves voting for the DA, they can't trust the DA."

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