South Africa’s ANC suffers miserable elections results

The African National Congress has suffered the worst election results since Apartheid ended 22-years ago. The results have reshaped the political landscape, where the ANC has ruled virtually unopposed until now.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Hundreds of people queue to cast their vote at a polling station in Wembezi township near Estcourt, in KwaZulu-Natal Province, on August 3, 2016

After the final count has been completed, the African National Congress (ANC) suffered a devastating blow in South Africa’s local government elections since the end of white-minority rule.  

The ANC lost its grip on local government in Tshwane, home of South Africa's capital Pretoria with the DA winning 43.1 percent of the vote over the ANC's 41.2 percent, highlighting the declining popularity of the party that led the anti-apartheid struggle.

Beside the defeat in Tshwane, the ANC lost the symbolic Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, which includes the manufacturing hub Port Elizabeth, to the DA by a margin of 46.7 to 40 percent.

It was a humiliating blow for the ANC as the municipality is officially known as "Nelson Mandela Bay" in tribute to its past as a hotbed of anti-apartheid activism.

A 78 year old voter claps her hands up after casting her vote during municipal elections at VD Zamukuthula Primary School in Wembezi township near Estcourt, in KwaZulu-Natal Province, on August 3, 2016.

Reacting to the worst poll result for the party since Apartheid, 22-years ago, President Jacob Zuma said voters had been heard, amid speculation about the ballot's impact on his position.

"These elections were hotly contested, that is how it should be in a democracy," he said.

At the national level, the ANC remains the nation's top party. However, the party Mandela once headed has seen a slump in support after landing a national tally of 53.9 percent of votes, a plunge of eight points from 2011.

'A tipping point'

DA leader Mmusi Maimane hailed the results as a landmark for his party.

"This is a tipping point for the people of South Africa," he said. "This represents for all of us the fact that we are a party not only of opposition but of government."

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane gestures as he speaks to members of the media at the result center in Pretoria, South Africa August 4,2016.

Only 58 percent of the electorate tuned up to cast their vote choosing mayors and other local representatives responsible for hot-button issues including water, sanitation, housing and power supplies.

Problems providing such basics trigger regular and sometimes violent "service delivery" protests in South Africa, where harsh socio-economic divisions remain a grim legacy of the apartheid era.

Vice-president and party deputy leader Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC would heed the electorate's message.

"Clearly our people are sending out messages all around, we are going to listen very, very carefully. We are a listening organisation, we are going to listen to our people," said Ramaphosa.

Ahead of final results, the ANC looked set to remain the biggest party in Johannesburg but could lose its overall majority in the country's economic centre.

Zuma future in focus

Unemployment, economic stagnation and scandals around President Jacob Zuma led voters to punish the ANC, changing the outlook for national elections in 2019 and potentially emboldening Zuma's rivals within the ANC to challenge him.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma arrives for the official announcement of the munincipalelection results at the result centre in Pretoria, South Africa, August 6, 2016. Image: Reuters

The position of Zuma, 74, as head of state is coming under question even though his mandate still has three years to run after a poll widely seen as a referendum on a leader plagued by scandals since taking office in 2009.

One revolves around his using $500,000 of public money to refurbish his private home in Kwazulu-Natal, money the Constitutional Court says he must repay.

Maimane, the DA's first black leader, had indicated before results began to come in that the polls were good for democracy.

"It says the democratic process is working," he said Friday.

An unemployment rate of 27 percent and zero GDP growth forecast for this year have added to Zuma's woes as frustration builds among poor black communities seeing scarce improvements since apartheid fell.

However, Zuma, jailed on Robben Island with Mandela during apartheid, retains deep loyalty inside the ANC and in many rural areas, although he cannot stand for a third term.

"A battle in the party could emerge from these poor results and ANC would have to find a dignified exit strategy for Zuma," independent political analyst Daniel Silke told AFP.

Poor economic stewardship added to voter dissatisfaction, Silke added.

Despite its strong showings in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria the DA will need coalition partners, which Silke sees as problematic.

One potential partner is radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

But "I don't think EFF is the best coalition partner for DA as they are diametrically opposed on every issue, it could be unstable," said Silke.

The EFF, led by former ANC man Julius Malema, was being credited as winning around eight percent and 11.09 percent in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

TRTWorld and agencies