JOHANNESBURG, May 7 (Xinhua/Sun) -- The "Nelson Mandela phenomenon" is playing a fundamental role in influencing many South Africans to vote for the ruling African National Congress (ANC), a senior local political analyst told Xinhua on Wednesday.

"This Mandela phenomenon is still popular in the majority of constituencies in South Africa and is possible to influence some South Africans to vote for the ANC," said Professor Sabelo Ndlovu- Gatsheni of Africa Developmental Studies at University of South Africa (UNISA).

He was speaking as South Africans went to the polls to elect the new National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni said the political history of Mandela plays a significant role in the country's politics, especially to the advantage of ANC.

Mandela, a founding member of the ANC, was South Africa's first black president elected in 1994. He died at the age of 95 last December.

During political campaigns almost all political parties in the country used Mandela's name, ideologies, principals and quotations to drum-up public support.

The Mandela phenomenon is still popular in South Africa, which is why political gladiators are falling over each other to claim a piece of Mandela and use it to appeal to the electorate, Ndlovu- Gatsheni said.

"Do it for Madiba, Vote ANC!" This was the ANC's campaign slogan, using the clan name of Mandela.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, also head of Archie Mafeje Research Institute (AMRI) at UNISA, said the slogan helped build support for the ANC.

"The ANC is legitimately entitled" to strategically use Mandela to mobilise support because Mandela died an ANC member and he even promised that he will open an ANC branch in heaven after death," Ndlovu-Gatsheni said.

He said the Mandela political brand is not only entranced among the older generation that suffered from apartheid but also influences the youth.

"This spirit will not die, it will be passed from generation to generation," 28-year-old Jeremiah Mukhabela said outside Mandela's Soweto home in Johannesburg.

"The sprit of Mandela is a force behind my ANC vote," said 18- year-old Crispin Chauke.

Lucky Ngobeni, 35, a community leader in Elias Motsoaledi settlement, a slum village in Soweto, said it will take years to separate people from Mandela and years for people to separate their love for Mandela.

"Today I'm reminded of the years Mandela spent in prison. I'm reminded of the day he cast his first vote to bring this democracy, " said a first-time voter, 18-year-old Mvuyiso Ngemane.

However, UNISA Prof. Ndlovu-Gatsheni said the ANC under President Jacob Zuma is facing "massive criticism" for betraying Mandela's conception of politics.

The ANC is facing challenges from main opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) formed last year by former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

The ruling party is set to win a comfortable majority in the elections, but fall short of winning a two-third majority it needs to bring about radical changes, according to several pre-election surveys.