Jacob Zuma’s Political party, African National Congress (ANC) has suffered its worst electoral blow since the end of apartheid in 1994, BBC reports.
With 98% of the votes counted after Wednesday’s municipal elections, the party has lost the key battle ground of Nelson Mandela Bay to the opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA).
The two parties are in a head-to-head for Johannesburg and Pretoria. But the ANC still takes the lead across the nation, with 54% of the vote.
Nationwide, with 98% of ballots counted in this week’s municipal elections, the ANC gather 54% of the vote, its lowest level in an election since apartheid in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became president and the party became South Africa’s dominance.
The decline in support for the ANC was particularly sharp in the nation’s eight major cities, where a growing range of black, middle-class voters turned against the politics of patronage personified by Zuma and progressively resisted the ANC’s emotional appeals to its heroic past.
“We’re awakening to a new political scene in South Africa,” William Gumede said, a political scientist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg according to the New York Times. “People are obviously not voting any longer due to the past. They’re now voting on the current reality of poor service delivery and also the Zuma’s presidency.”
The party’s showing in this week’s municipal elections fell well below the 60 minutes threshold that the party’s Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, identified in a report in October as “a political and psychological turning point that would be taken as a sign of the end of the movement.”
The main beneficiary of that discontentment was the Democratic Alliance, a party that was historically led by white South Africans who opposed apartheid, but currently has several young black leaders. During the campaign, the ANC attacked the Democratic Alliance as a bug for white interests.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president of the ANC and of the nation, stated at a press conference held on Friday afternoon that the organization would “do an introspective look at ourselves.”
“We are a party that’s not leaving from the body politic of this country,” he added. “Where we have shown areas of weakness, we are going to bounce back and improve. That’s who we are. We learn from our mistakes.”
President Zuma’s 7 years in office have been marked by a series of scandals, as well as the use of millions of dollars in government funds to renovate his personal home; accusations that Indian businessmen close to him offered to give out powerful government positions in exchange for favorable treatment; and Zuma’s appointment of allies with very little experience to key positions in state-owned and government companies.
The party’s poor showing this week also showed the extent of frustration over the economy, which has been made worse by Zuma’s unpredictable decisions, and anger over one of the world’s highest levels of income difference.