Counting started soon after the voting ended peacefully early Thursday in the fifth all-race polls that are expected to return President Jacob Zuma-led ANC to power. (Agencies)
With 20 percent of votes counted, the ANC had almost 56 percent of the vote followed by the Democratic Alliance on 31 percent and Economic Freedom Fighters on 3.9 percent.
The elections are the first since the death of Nelson Mandela - the country's first black President – in December and mark 20 years since the end of apartheid rule.
About 25 million registered voters - roughly half the population - trickled into some 22,263 polling centres across the country to vote in the first elections yesterday in which the 'Born Frees' - people born in a democratic South Africa - exercised their franchise. Turnout was just over 72 percent.
Under the proportional representation system, South Africans voted for parties, and not candidates, in two simultaneous ballots for national and provincial governments.
The first result for the constituency of Mount Ayliff in Eastern Cape Province showed the ANC getting 148 votes, the main opposition party Democratic Alliance three and the Economic Freedom Fighters of Julius Malema, expelled former ANC Youth League leader, got five.
The ANC is expected to win more than 60 percent of the vote, even as its campaign has been hit by concern over economic problems such as high unemployment and a number of corruption scandals.
With a record number of 29 parties contesting the polls, opposition to the ANC is hugely fragmented, with some analysts touting EFF as the dark horse which could take away some of the seats that might have been won by the DA.
South Africans have been voting in a dual national and provincial ballot on a proportional representation system for parties, with the winning parties deciding on the national President and nine provincial premiers.
Until now, ANC has governed in eight of the provinces, while the DA controlled the Western Cape Province.
Counting started soon after the voting ended peacefully early Thursday in the fifth all-race polls that are expected to return President Jacob Zuma-led ANC to power.