The big story: An electoral shake-up

Who would have thought the once indomitable ANC would be scrambling for coalition partners to stay in power in cities and municipalities across the country?

As the results stream in from the local government elections one thing is clear: South Africa’s voting patterns have finally, fundamentally, shifted. 

Early indications are that the ruling party will fall below 50% NATIONALLY! That’s huge. (Remember, it doesn’t mean anything for national rule as this is a local election, but it bodes badly for the next national election, set for 2024). 

As former ANC and Cope politician Mbhazima Shilowa put it, the ANC seems to have become a rural party.

After the shock of losing its majority in three metros in the last local government election, the party has lost control of even more areas – including Durban, aka eThekwini!

The final results will be released later today or tomorrow, and we’ll be picking over what it means for days to come, but here’s what you need to know for now. 

🔹Coalitions: As predicted, top parties like the ANC, DA and EFF are losing steam, while smaller parties are coming out on top.

🔹Hell hasn’t frozen over, we don’t think, but the DA and ANC may be looking to partner in certain areas. Who would have thought it? DA federal chair Helen Zille, apparently. If previous leaked recordings are to be believed, it seems the opposition DA has long mused dropping the fight to become a majority governing party and instead keeping the ANC accountable in a coalition. It’s startling, considering the enmity between the two parties, but it DOES make the most sense ideologically: they’re both largely central parties, and both would struggle to find common ground with the third biggest party – the radical left-leaning EFF.  

🔹 Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA is the break-out star of this election. Mashaba wants to reclaim his title as Johannesburg mayor and, with 16% of the vote in the key city at the time of writing, he’ll be a kingmaker at least. He led the metro when he was with the DA but resigned in 2019 when Zille came on board. (Let’s not forget concerns around his xenophobia and some allegations of corruption during his previous mayorship.) Early counts show that ActionSA also garnered significant support in Soweto (the ANC’s baby) and Zandspruit, near Muldersdrift, where it picked up 35% of votes – and counting. 

🔹Voter turnout was super low voter this year. It was the first time in the history of South Africa’s democracy that only 26.32% of the population decided to come out to vote, compared to 57% in the 2016 local government elections. The IEC also came under fire for some mishaps but this looks to have been another free and fair election. 

We’ll do a full analysis of the finalised results. For now? Welcome to your new political reality. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 4 November 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.