Mangosuthu Buthelezi (File, Supplied)
Early numbers has the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) as a firm contender as the official opposition to the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.
The party has occupied the second spot since early Thursday morning, reaching 172 230 by afternoon, leading the DA, who managed 100 019 votes.
In the 2014 national elections, the DA took the title of provincial opposition with 517 461 votes while the IFP garnered just under 400 000 with 393 949.
With the National Freedom Party (12 534 votes) in disarray this election, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi's IFP is set to expand its hold on the province as many Northern Natal constituents return home to him.
But DA leader Zwakele Mncwango told News24 that he felt the south coast of KZN would increase his party numbers.
"It is still early, and we feel we can definitely get past the IFP."
IFP MPL Les Govender however said that many of the party's key northern KZN strongholds were yet to be counted.
"We have also done a lot of work in KwaMashu, Chatsworth, Umlazi and Inanda."
While overnight counting will bring these two parties closer to establishing who secures second place, the ANC continues to maintain its hold on the province marching along at a steady 536 894 votes by Thursday afternoon.
In 2014, the ANC won 2.5 million votes in KZN with 65% of votes, while the DA received 517 461, amounting to 13.35 % of votes, and the IFP with 393 949, 10.17% of votes.
Earlier, ANC spokesperson in KZN Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the province would have a pivotal role to play at a national level.
"You can expect KZN to play a significant national role. Statistics show we are a bigger province than Gauteng and will therefore contribute to national numbers and politics. That is why we work so hard as a province. We make sure we don't let the ANC down in the rest of the country and retain the province."
Election officials have forecast that counting in the province could be completed by Friday.
Arrests for voter fraud
Meanwhile, national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo confirmed that 20 suspects have been arrested after allegedly trying to vote twice.
He said 19 suspects were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal. Of the 19, 16 were alleged to have transgressed in Danhauser, two in Hluhluwe and one in the Port Shepstone while the twentieth suspect was arrested in Douglasdale in Gauteng. They would be appearing in their respective courts soon.
Police made the arrests at 02:00 on Thursday after investigations began at midnight.
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