"There will be no surprises in the next administration's programme of action. The electorate has endorsed our call for an equitable, sustainable and inclusive growth path that will bring decent work and sustainable livelihoods," he said.

Opposition parties had feared the ANC would win enough votes to change the constitution and then use that position to reduce the powers of local government.

Opposition gains

A newly formed party of ANC dissidents, the Congress of the People (Cope), failed to make a dramatic impact on the vote held last Wednesday, winning only 7.4 per cent of the vote.

Final results

The three main parties won the following seats in the 400-seat parliament:

 ANC - 264 (65.9%)
 DA - 67 (16.7%)
 Cope - 30 (7.4%)

The ANC has seen its share of the vote fall for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994. The ruling party won nearly 70 per cent in 2004.

Zuma's party also lost control of the Western Cape province, centre of the tourist industry, to the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), led by Helen Zille, the former mayor of Cape Town.

But the ANC celebrated what was still an overwhelming victory under the leadership of Zuma, who just three weeks ago succeeded in getting a court to drop corruption charges his supporters say were politically motivated.

'Resounding mandate'

The party's credentials for ending white minority rule were more important for many voters than its heavily criticised record on fighting poverty, violent crime and HIV/Aids.

South African election 2009

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"The ANC has been given a clear and resounding mandate," Matthews Phosa, a senior party official, told thousands of cheering supporters at an ANC party in Johannesburg on Friday.

The ruling party's closest rival was the DA, with just over 16.7 per cent of the vote.

Zille was quoted by the Sapa news agency as saying on Saturday: "We will try to govern as well as we can to show that life is better for everybody under the DA."

Zuma, 67, has assured investors in South Africa that he will not be dropping policies they are comfortable with, even though his trade union allies want more help for the poor.

Electoral officials estimated the turnout at more than 77 per cent, a little higher than in 2004.