The ANC is projected to win 57 percent with 85 percent of the votes counted after Wednesday’s elections. Nelson Mandela led the party from 1991-1997 – and has been the winning party ever since. Their projected win will keep them in power nationally but see them suffer a drop in support.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to face resistance to removing senior officials who have been tarnished by allegations of corruption.
Mr Ramaphosa had hoped a majority win of more that 60 percent would boost his anti-corruption agenda.
He cast his vote at a school in Soweto and said the ANC had failed to deliver jobs and homes promised at the end of apartheid.
Mr Ramaphosa said: “Corruption got in the way, patronage got into he way and not focusing not he needs of out people got in the way.
“Now we are owning up to that, we are saying we are going to correct the bad ways of the past.”
Amid high levels of inequality, unemployment and ANC scandals – two opposing parties failed to make meaningful gains.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) lost some ground to the Freedom front Plus – which is a right-wing party looking to establish a homeland for white farmers.
The Freedom Front Plus finished seventh in the 2014 elections but could not treble the number of sweaters in parliament.
After the ANC, DA and Economic Freedom Fighters it is expected to come forth.
The EEF with ten percent of the vote is the official opposition in three out of eight provinces where it has come second behind the ANC.
Projections were made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research think tank which were based on results from the independent electoral commission.
ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said the results were neither a disappointment no surprise.
She said: “What I think is important to recognise is the deepening of our democracy.”
Some analysts believe lack of political involvement is a sign of unhappiness in a suffering economy and lack of faith in the two opposition parties.
Many view the DA as a party run by whites for white voters only – even though their leader is Mmusi Maimane.
The EEF is viewed as a radical party with an appeal beyond young black voters.
Mr Ramaphosa was a trade union leader before becoming one of the richest men in Africa after building a successful business.
He is resented by ANC enemies for being more popular than the party itself as well as his relationship with the white minority.
In recent years the South African economy has moved into recession and annual growth has remained below two percent.