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South Africa's ANC loses its 30-year majority in landmark election



 African National Congress Deputy Secretary-General Nomvula Mokonyane, left, arrives with ANC Chairperson Gwede Mantashe at the Independent Electoral Commission National Results Center in Midrand, South Africa, on June 1, 2024. The ANC lost its parliamentary majority. [AFP]

South Africa’s liberation party, the governing African National Congress, has lost its parliamentary majority for the first time after a historic election blow.

With all ballots now counted, results showed that after thirty years of dominance, the ANC of Nelson Mandela had been punished at the polls, gaining around 40 per cent of the vote, a sharp drop from 57 per cent in 2019.

While the official declaration of results is expected Sunday evening, this means South Africa is set to enter a new era of coalition politics, said Professor David Everatt, from Johannesburg’s Wits School of Governance.

"It will be a good thing because although the ANC under Mandela and Mbeki started well, it ended under a terrible trough of corruption, state capture," he said.

Analysts say it was corruption, as well as high unemployment and general failure to do more to improve the lives of poor Black South Africans, that saw President Cyril Ramaphosa’s party humiliated in this election.

But the question is, with whom will the ANC partner? That decision will have a huge effect on Africa’s most developed economy and the country’s political future.

Business will be rooting for a coalition with the Democratic Alliance, for years the official opposition, which came in second with more than 21% of the vote.

A surprise third -- nudging out Julius Malema’s populist Economic Freedom Fighters -- was the uMkhonto weSizwe party, or MK, led by former President Jacob Zuma.

Despite doing better than expected with about 14% of the vote, mainly thanks to the former president’s popularity with fellow ethnic Zulus, Zuma on Saturday night said MK was rejecting the results.

The elections, held Wednesday, have been widely declared free and fair, but MK made unsubstantiated claims of rigging. MK says it could seek a recount or a revote.

Zuma warned the Electoral Commission against "provoking" people by declaring the official result on Sunday as planned.

Zuma’s comeback has been the story of this election, and his new party’s success ate into the ANC’s share of the vote. He is bitter at his former party the ANC for forcing him to resign in his second term as president in 2018 over corruption scandals.

Though he’s still leading the party, Zuma cannot sit in parliament with MK because of a contempt of court conviction.

His brief jailing in 2021 caused the worst riots in South Africa’s post-apartheid history, with more than 350 people killed.

Next year, Zuma is to face trial over an alleged corrupt arms deal.

Political analyst Sandile Swana said Zuma may be hoping for a deal regarding an amnesty around his legal woes.

"Zuma does not need to be in office, but he does need his puppets to be in office, and run those puppets, but he also does not want to run his puppets from jail,” Swana said. “Because the arms deal case, which is in progress, which needs to be stopped from Zuma’s perspective, can cause a situation where he has to serve 15 years in jail — so he will want that resolved."

Once official election results are declared, the ANC has two weeks to engage in coalition talks before forming a government.

There is speculation Ramaphosa may be forced by his party to resign after the ANC’s poor showing.

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