JOHANNESBURG -- South Africa's voters have delivered a significant rebuke to the governing African National Congress, the party of late anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, which got less than 50% of ballots cast in local government elections.
Widespread corruption, persistently high rates of unemployment, crippling power blackouts and ineffective delivery of government services were burning campaign issues.
In results announced Thursday night, the ANC saw an erosion of its support and as a result will control fewer councils and have fewer mayors in big and small cities across the country.
President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged that the party will have to form coalitions to govern key metropolitan areas.
“If we are to make this a new and better era, we as leaders must put aside our differences and work together in a spirit of partnership, of cooperation and collaboration and common purpose in the interest of the people of South Africa,” said Ramaphosa, announcing the results at the election center in Pretoria.
Not only did voters not support the ANC, most did not bother to vote. Although voting day was declared a public holiday, turnout was 47% of registered voters, more than 10% lower than in previous elections.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, failed to take advantage of the ANC's declining support, seeing its share of votes decline by about 5% since the previous local elections in 2016.
More than 60 urban councils have no party holding a clear majority, meaning that coalitions will need to be formed. Some new parties won significant minority shares, such as ActionSA which won 16% of the vote in Johannesburg, and will have strategic leverage in the coalitions that the major parties will have to form in the coming days.