Published: Sat, August 06, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

South Africa's ruling party suffering biggest electoral blow

South Africa's ruling party suffering biggest electoral blow

South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) conceded defeat Friday in the city of Port Elizabeth as local election results underlined the declining popularity of the party that led the anti-apartheid struggle.

ANC parliamentary whip Jackson Mthembu, said the losses for the post-apartheid party - once headed by late President Nelson Mandela - were a "worrying trend".

But neck-and-neck races between the ANC and DA in Johannesburg and Tshwane mean the EFF's 10 percent share of the vote could be needed for coalitions there.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) indicated Thursday that collation of results would be completed later Friday.

With 94% of the votes counted after Wednesday's municipal elections, the party has lost the key battleground of Nelson Mandela Bay to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

ANC officials in Nelson Mandela Bay cried foul and said it was lodging a complaint about 500 dumped ballot papers found there with votes marked for the party. We believe, without doubt, the people of South Africa have come out to vote for change.

"What it really will say is that few results are certain in South African politics any more (and) that the certainty the ANC has enjoyed for so long would simply be negated".

The poll is a mid-term comment on the performance of President Jacob Zuma, who has been the subject of scandals since taking office in 2009, and has been plagued by the country's economic crises.

The count is seen as a marker ahead of the next general election due in 2019.

Even if they have issues of unhappiness about the ANC, they don't cross over to vote for another party in numbers.

For the party to understand why and orchestrate a meaningful reversal before 2019, its leaders need to examine the results, understand the national mood and make an honest diagnosis, Msimang said.

"Foreign investors will probably welcome the fact that reduced support for the ruling ANC has helped the centrist DA rather than the leftist EFF", said John Ashbourne, Africa analyst at Capital Economics, in a note.

Although coalitions are not a new phenomenon in South African politics, judging by the results so far, the 2016 Municipal Elections are set to be a game changer. More than 5.6 million people - 26.6 percent of the country's work force - are unemployed.

South Africa's unemployment rate is now 27 percent, alongside GDP growth at zero percent, crumbling education and health systems and persistent crime.

Another opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, also contested the local elections for the first time. Rising economic woes, poor service delivery and rampant inequality have spurred numerous protests across the country.

"All of this points at Zuma, ultimately the buck stops with him", Fikeni said.

"I just voted DA for change", said Claire King, 30, in Port Elizabeth central business district, following the August 3 local government elections.

"It looks like the verdict coming from the urban areas is negative in such that many will start blaming the leader of the party [President Jacob Zuma] because he has been limping from one particular negative story to the other since December when he fired the finance minister (sic)".

Calls for Zuma, 74, to resign have mounted since the nation's top court ruled in March that he violated the constitution by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on upgrading his private home.

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