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ANC loses grip on key SA cities after election setback

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress lost control of most of the country’s main urban centers after its worst electoral showing, raising the threat of the party losing its national majority in a 2024 vote.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance’s Randall Williams was on Tuesday elected mayor of the Tshwane municipality, which includes the capital Pretoria, after it enlisted the support of smaller parties to shut out the ANC. DA candidates Mpho Phalatse and Tania Campbell were respectively elected as the mayors of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and neighbouring Ekurhuleni on Monday.

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Africa’s oldest political movement, the ANC led the fight against White-minority rule and held power since the first multiracial elections in 1994. It bled support during Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred, nine-year rule, and its mismanagement of towns and a campaign-funding squeeze saw its share of the vote drop below 50% for the first time on November 1. No party secured an outright majority in about 70 municipalities.

The ANC also looks set to lose control of the eastern eThekwini municipality, which includes the port city of Durban, after a cooperation accord with the Inkatha Freedom Party unraveled, with the DA’s Nicole Graham likely to be elected as mayor on Wednesday. With the DA governing Cape Town, the ANC will be left in control of just three of the eight main urban areas — Mangaung and Buffalo City, where it rules outright, and Nelson Mandela Bay, where it heads a minority government.

Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay have been led by unstable coalitions since 2016, with power changing hands several times between the ANC and the opposition. The problem is likely to persist over the next five years, with the investor-friendly DA’s control dependent on the whim of rivals with which it has little in common. They include the Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-largest party which advocates the nationalisation of land, banks and mines.

If the opposition parties do manage to work together, they could theoretically wrest power from the ANC in 2024 and block President Cyril Ramaphosa from securing a second five-year term, though municipal elections aren’t always a good indicator of how parties will perform nationally. Control of the central Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the eastern KwaZulu-Natal region, which are currently run by the ANC, will also be hotly contested.

© 2021 Bloomberg


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