In local polls Wednesday, ANC, in power since 1994, faces tough competition from main opposition DA.
Hassan Isilow - PRETORIA (AA) – Political analysts blamed a cloud of scandals dogging South African President Jacob Zuma for his party’s historically poor showing in Wednesday’s local elections.
With 90 percent of the vote counted early Friday, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) suffered a landmark defeat in losing the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, a traditional ANC stronghold on the country’s southeast coast, to the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which got 46.7 percent of the vote versus the ANC’s 40.1 percent.
The municipality is named after the late Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black democratically elected president and anti-apartheid hero, and the ANC’s leader from 1991 to 1997.
As of Friday morning, the ANC was still competing neck-and-neck with the Democratic Alliance for control of the capital Pretoria and Johannesburg, the main economic hub.
Despite losing major municipalities, the ANC is leading nationally with 54.4 percent of the votes counted, with the DA trailing at 26.3 percent, followed by the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters with 7.9 percent.
But this showed the ANC hemorrhaging more votes since the 2011 local elections, when it won about 62 percent versus the DA’s 24 percent, according to Independent Electoral Commission figures.
“This is the first time that the ruling African National Congress has lost major electoral support since the end of apartheid in 1994,” political analyst Shadrack Gutto told Anadolu Agency Friday.
He attributed the ANC’s woes to Zuma’s many scandals, including using 7.8 million rand ($509,000) in public funds to upgrade his private home.
“Zuma’s close association with the wealthy Indian Gupta family, who landed their plane without permission at a military base, has also cost the party,” he said.
Sheila Meintjes, a political science professor at Johannesburg’s University of Witwatersrand, told Anadolu Agency that the ANC had lost about 7 percent of its support.
“It’s very hard to say what the ANC should do, but with due respect Zuma has become a liability,” she said in an interview.
Gutto believes ANC leaders should quickly work out an exit strategy to recall Zuma from office before his term ends in 2019.
He warned if the party fails to do this, it could lose more support in the provincial and national elections that year.
“The sooner the ANC removes Zuma, the better [chance] it will save itself,” he said.
Andre Duvenhage, a professor of politics at North-West University, agreed that Zuma has become a “liability” to his party.
In late 2015 and earlier this year, South Africans marched in major cities, calling on the ruling ANC to recall Zuma.
They accused him of crippling the economy by firing two finance ministers in a period of less than a week, making the country’s currency the rand lose value.
They also blamed his government for the high 27 percent unemployment rate and slow economic growth.
To date, however, the ANC has stood by their leader, the nation’s president since 2009.
The ANC said in a statement Friday that it will reflect on where its support fell, but added defiantly, “As results continue to come in, ANC votes are expected to increase even further. They are a ringing endorsement of the ANC's service delivery program by the citizens of South Africa.”