The African National Congress has posted its worst election results in the post-apartheid era, with South Africa's black urban voters abandoning the former liberation movement in unprecedented numbers in three highly contested major metros.
While still ahead nationally with just over 54.4 per cent of the votes counted by yesterday afternoon (the vast majority), the ruling party has been defeated in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality (the Eastern Cape Provincial capital, Port Elizabeth) by the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
Voters in South Africa went to the polls in local elections across the country on Wednesday.
Compounding its defeat in Port Elizabeth, the ANC finds itself neck-and-neck with the DA in Johannesburg and Pretoria, the country's economic and administrative capitals, where the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has become the kingmaker party.
The ANC and DA are on 41.69 percent and 41.87 percent of the vote respectively in Johannesburg, with the EFF on 10.59 percent; and 42.64 percent 42.29 percent in Pretoria, with the EFF on 10.91 percent.
In Cape Town the DA has won an absolute majority with 66.19 percent of the vote, and the ANC trails far behind on 24.67 percent with most of the votes counted.
In Port Elizabeth the DA has 46.71 per cent of the vote versus the ANC’s 40.92 percent, while the EFF is on 5.12 percent.
In President Jacob Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC has managed a majority of 55.78 percent versus the DA's 27.09 percent.
While the results could change slightly before the Independent Electoral Commission announces the final results, they will not swing by much.
Therefore, coalition governments are likely to emerge in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth, three metros the ANC was in control of following the 2011 local elections.
While little has yet been established in relation to the makeup of potential coalition partnerships, the ANC is likely to come out the loser in a number of metros.
The EFF, whose leader Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC in 2012 for bringing the party into disrepute, is running a Twitter poll, asking who it should go into a coalition with, if at all.
After 3,411 votes were cast on the social media network, 56 per cent had voted for the DA, 26 per cent voted for the EFF to abstain, and only 18 per cent for th4e party to join up with the ANC.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who last year became the party's first black president, hailed his party's "incredible growth" before ruling out a coalition with the ANC in Port Elizabeth.
“We’ve run this election on the basis of change so I’m speaking to other opposition parties,” he told reporters.
The ANC has won more than 60 per cent of the vote at every poll since 1994, so despite retaining its majority nationally the fall in support is dramatic.
While poor service delivery and high unemployment rates will have played a part in the ANC’s decline, so too will the constant scandals and allegations of corruption that have swirled around Mr Zuma, who has led the party since 2007 and been South Africa’s president from 2009.
With only two years to go to the next general election, the pressure has once again been ramped up on the beleaguered president, who has many enemies within the ANC looking to oust him from power.
Political scientist Daryl Glaser, a University of the Witwatersrand professor, told Radio 702 on Friday that the elections results should force the ANC to take a long hard look at itself.
“This is going to be an introspective moment for the ANC. I think there will be a little bit of blame directed externally at other groups and parties‚ but I think the person who must be most worried is Zuma‚” he said.