Analysts say that the ANC could face massive internal conflict as the ruling party nears its worst election result since it came to power in 1994.
Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of Wits university, told the Financial Times that the result was a “huge blow” to the ANC. “This is definitely an anti-Zuma vote,” he said.
Habib called the “modernist” wing of the ANC will have to decide whether to mount a further attempt to oust president Jacob Zuma. If the leadership in Gauteng province did not move against Zuma, he said, the president might well try to move against them, by making them a scapegoat for the poor performance in both cities.
“Either way you’re going to see a massive conflict within the ANC,” Habib said.
“We see decline pretty much across the board, in all of the metros,” Susan Booysen, a political scientist said. “The declines were expected, but their severity was not.”
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu has said the ANC’s current standing in the polls, at between 54% and 55%, was a “cause for concern”, and that the party would have to do serious introspection on “what went wrong”.
With more than 90% of the results out already, Mthembu told News24 on Friday morning at the national elections results centre that the ANC was in new territory with its lower polls.
Mthembu’s stance also contradicted a media release by ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa on Thursday night, in which he declared that the party was “buoyant and energised” at its 54.2% of the vote, as the DA was “trailing behind at a mere 26.9%”.
“This result affirms the organisation’s confidence that South Africans have once again entrusted the ANC with managing the country’s municipalities,” Kodwa said.
But Mthembu was far less upbeat.
What went wrong?
“Probably this is the first election where the ANC will be standing around 54%, 55%,” he said.
“All the elections we had over 60%. The mere fact that you are standing around 54%, 55% is indeed a cause for concern.
“Therefore the ANC must look itself in the eye because we don’t believe that any of the organisations that are on offer in South Africa have a better solution than the ANC.
“If we do have a better solution, what went wrong? If our policies are the best policies, what went wrong? If our delivery mechanisms are best, where did we go wrong, if the offerings that we were giving to our people are the best offerings (what went wrong?).”
He said the ANC would have to look into its offerings to urban and rural people and consider if they were still the best.
“We have to look ourselves in the face to be very critical of ourselves so that come 2019, come another election, we are able to regain the lost ground.”
‘Psychological turning point’
The ANC has previously said any result below 60% would be a “psychological turning point” for the party.
Mthembu has admitted that the results point to a loss for the ANC in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, but said the party remained hopeful that it would be victorious in the other highly contested metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
He said the party would have to analyse the results in the voting districts to understand what it could have done better and how it could have campaigned better.
It hasn’t done so yet.
Mthembu also confirmed that the party withdrew its complaint to the IEC about dumped ballots in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
He did not want to discuss possible coalitions before all the results were out. “When we have the results then you can ask what you have lost, and what is your plan,” he said.