UPDATE: Counting continues across SA, ANC claims it's regained control of Nkandla

It's still too early to tell which way many of the country's major metros will go.

Picture: Aletta Harrison/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Twelve hours after polls closed in South Africa's most hotly contested elections since democracy, vote-counting continues across the country.

It's still too early to tell which way many of the country's major metros will go.

The African National Congress (ANC) took an early lead overall, with around 50 percent of the more than 12 million votes counted at 7am.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) was on 32 percent and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on 6,5 percent.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is only expecting to have a clear picture of the results and voter turnout much later today.

ANC IN NKANDLA

ANC deputy secretary-general Jesse Duarte says the ruling party is happy its regained control of Nkandla.

In 2011, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) took control of the municipality responsible for President Jacob Zumas hometown.

Duarte says she's happy the ANC has now taken it back.

"I'm very pleased that the president has won his ward not for him but that Nkandla is back in the hands of the ANC. I think the media made a great deal about that. I suspect some people were hoping that Nkandla would go to the DA."

RESULTS SO FAR

At around 8am, some key patterns were beginning to emerge, with parties claiming small municipalities and making new predictions about bigger ones.

The IEC says it's 42 percent of the way through the counting process after yesterday's local government elections. The ANC has so far won 13 councils, while DA has clinched five.

They're the only two parties so far to win any clear control.

The battlegrounds of the Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay municipalities are still up for grabs.

As thing stood at around 8am, the DA was leading in all three, but the counting process is far from over.

Looking at the national picture, the ANC has won 51 percent of all votes counted, the DA 31 percent and the EFF seven percent.

At the same time, The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)'s chief electoral officer says the counting process in the Western Cape is almost complete.

Electoral officials have been counting ballot papers throughout the night.

The IEC's Courtney Sampson says, "Elections have phases. We are done with first phase, and the voting and counting is very close to conclusion now. The reason why these people are not wanting to sleep is that they want to get this thing over and done with (sic)."

*Editor's note: Figures will change as vote-counting continues.