Some 26 million people of South Africa's population of 57 million were eligible to vote but there have been signs of a relatively low turnout. President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling African National Congress have faced frustration from voters over corruption scandals and a weak economy with high unemployment.
The growing unrest 25 years after the end of apartheid is expected to lead to a higher share of votes for top opposition parties Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters.
South Africa's president has voted in the national election.
President Cyril Ramaphosa tells reporters that he is "truly humbled" by the turnout. He says South Africans want to see a country that is working and officials who will work for them.
He says "corruption got into the way" of serving the people and he apologized.
Despite pressure on his ruling African National Congress from leading opposition parties Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters, Ramaphosa says he is "excitingly confident."
He says the election outcome will be a "major boost" for investors in the country, whose economy has been largely stagnant. He vows to fight inequality that has persisted in the 25 years since the end of the racist system of apartheid.
Firebrand opposition leader Julius Malema has voted in South Africa's election in his home area of Seshego, part of Polokwane in northern Limpopo province.
Speaking after casting his ballot, Malema said he expects a good turnout for his party, the populist, leftist Economic Freedom Fighters.
"If the people want to continue unemployed, if the people want to continue landless, then they can continue voting for the same party," said Malema, referring to the ruling ANC, in power since 1994. "But if you need change, the EFF is the way to go!"
Malema said he is happy to see South Africans voting, 25 years after the end of apartheid, because "a lot of people died for to have the right to vote."
The leader of South Africa's main opposition party has cast his ballot in Dobsonville, a part of Soweto, Johannesburg's largest black township. He was one of the first voters at the Dobsonville polling station.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has vigorously campaigned against the corruption scandals that have tarnished the ruling African National Congress party. But black support for Maimane's party is limited because it is widely perceived as being run by whites.
The African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela that has been in power since 1994, is likely to win a majority in Wednesday's poll but it will face a difficult challenge to do as well as five years ago.
South Africans have started voting in presidential and parliamentary elections amid issues of corruption and unemployment.
Wednesday's vote comes 25 years after the end of apartheid, but despite the demise of the system of racial discrimination the country remains divided by economic inequality .
The party of Nelson Mandela that has been in power since 1994, The African National Congress, is likely to win a majority but it will face a difficult challenge to do as well as five years ago.
The party has been tarnished by widespread corruption scandals and a national unemployment rate of 27% that has left many voters disillusioned. ANC head President Cyril Ramaphosa has campaigned on promises to clean up his party, an acknowledgment of the problems that forced his predecessor to resign last year.