The party, which toppled white apartheid rule after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, is up against its stiffest electoral challenge to date against the backdrop of high unemployment, a stagnant economy and controversies surrounding President Jacob Zuma.
The race for the big metros is hotting up. With almost 40 percent of votes counted, the ANC is ahead nationally. It’s won 10 municipal councils with the Democratic Alliance securing three. But the DA is ahead in the key battleground cities.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) was leading its rivals early on Thursday as vote counting proceeded in local government elections that could see it lose control of key cities for the first time since coming to power.
The ANC and DA were neck-and-neck at 43 percent each in Tshwane municipality, home to the capital Pretoria, although only a few percent of the votes had been counted. The DA led with 61 percent versus 30 percent for the ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay, with a fifth of the votes in.
Opinion polls see a close race in Nelson Mandela Bay, named after the anti-apartheid champion and South Africa’s first black president, as well as in Pretoria and South Africa’s economic hub, Johannesburg.
In Johannesburg — with 17 percent of votes counted — the DA leads with 46 percent. The ANC is close behind with 39 percent while the EFF has 9.5 percent of the vote.
A significant loss of support for the ruling party, which led South Africa’s decades-long struggle against oppressive white minority rule, would be a blow ahead of the next major test – the 2019 national elections.
The ANC won an overall 62 percent of the vote in the last municipal elections in 2011, while the DA garnered 24 percent.
Final results for this year’s election are expected by Friday.
The DA is expected to maintain control of Cape Town, the only big city not run by the ANC. It is an historically white-dominated movement hoping to expand support under its new black leader Mmusi Maimane.
“I voted DA because I’m sick of the rotten, corrupt ANC,” said Simpiwe, an unemployed 55-year-old surrounded by shacks in a rundown Nelson Mandela Bay township on the southeast coast, after casting his ballot on Wednesday.
– REUTERS and Other Sources