South Africa – On Thursday, a majority of South African voters turned against the ruling African National Congress for the first time in the democratic era. The ANC received 46% of national votes, a decrease from 54% in the previous municipal elections five years ago. Nelson Mandela’s party received fewer than half of the votes cast for the first time in any election in Africa’s most industrialized nation. On the other hand, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his party officials put up a brave front.
“We, as leaders, must lay aside our differences and work together in a spirit of collaboration and shared purpose if we are to make this a new and better age,” Ramaphosa told elected officials during the official results declaration event in Pretoria. As parties battle for position in order to create coalitions in towns and cities, the immediate impact of Monday’s election is local. The national outcome concealed broader trends, with the ANC losing significant support in major cities but maintaining support in smaller towns.
On Monday, the ANC won majorities in 161 of the 213 councils that voted. A third of the councils were split down the middle. The Democratic Alliance, the largest opposition party, and the Inkatha Freedom Party, which is strong in KwaZulu-province, Natal’s split the rest. “The worst could have happened,” ANC elections chief Fikile Mbalula told reporters. “To get here, we put forth a lot of effort.” “We have not been politically obliterated, we have not been annihilated,” he stated forcefully.
The ANC’s chances of winning the national elections in 2024 are low. “We are quite thrilled” that the ANC’s support has slipped below 50%, said Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, which finished third with 10% of the vote nationwide. “In 2024, things are likely to grow worse for the ANC,” he added. According to DA leader John Steenhuisen, the election was “a game changer.”
“South Africans indicated the beginning of the end of the ANC’s political dominance and ushered in a new and hopeful age,” Steenhuisen said, adding that if the elections had been held nationwide, the ANC “would no longer be in office.” The findings revealed, however, that South Africa’s democracy is deepening, moving beyond the ideal of a “rainbow nation” to the reality of balancing numerous competing interests. “We’ve been attempting to implement democracy in South Africa for a long time,” Sandile Swana, an independent political analyst, said, “but we haven’t really succeeded in establishing a truly competitive multi-party democracy.”
Since the last local elections five years ago, major cities such as Johannesburg and Pretoria have had coalition governments. This pattern is continuing. The ANC lost control of even more regions across the country, including former president Jacob Zuma‘s home province of KwaZulu-Natal. Only two out of every three potential voters signed up to vote. Less than half of those eligible, or 47 percent, voted.“The ANC was in difficulty for the first time, and they couldn’t hide their fear,” political expert Nomavenda Mathiane said.