South Africa local elections: ANC loses power in Johannesburg for first time

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South Africa’s governing ANC party has lost control of the country’s largest city and economic centre, Johannesburg.

The city council elected as mayor Herman Mashaba from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

The ANC had run the city since the fall of apartheid more than 20 years ago. It lost its council majority in local elections, although it is still the largest party.

The party has also lost control of the capital Pretoria and Cape Town.


It follows local elections earlier this month that produced no outright winner in most districts, resulting in hung municipalities and forcing parties to form coalitions to govern.

Of the country’s six biggest cities, the ANC only won an outright majority in Durban, seen as a stronghold for South African President Jacob Zuma.

There was drama at Monday’s Johannesburg council meeting, which lasted 11 hours.

A scuffle broke out between opposition party members and electoral commission officials and an ANC councillor who was sworn in earlier in the day collapsed and died shortly after Mr Mashaba was elected.

The ANC had won 44.5% of the vote, more than the DA’s 38.4%. But the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with 11% found itself in the position of kingmaker and refused to give its votes to the ANC.

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Analysis: Milton Nkosi, BBC Africa, Johannesburg

Africa National Congress (ANC) supporters arrive at the Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg for the party's closing rally on July 31, 2016 ahead of August 3, municipal electionsImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe ANC’s credibility has been damaged by the corruption scandals which have hit its leader Jacob Zuma

The election of the Democratic Alliance’s Herman Mashaba as mayor of Johannesburg represents a tectonic shift in South African politics.

This is the first time since the end of apartheid that the ANC lost control of the city of gold, as Johannesburg is known locally.

The Johannesburg wing of the ANC is known within the party to be professional and not corrupt.

However, voters still punished it for the litany of corruption scandals the ANC has been involved in at a national level.

And there were some local problems, including potholed roads, a shambolic electricity billing system and refuse strikes that left the city filthy.

What has happened in Johannesburg is a microcosm of what could happen nationally come the general election in 2019.

Mr Mashaba, a 56-year-old businessman, has promised to reform the city administration.

“As of this evening, corruption is declared public enemy number one in this city,” he told cheering supporters.

“Public monies that have been misspent, misused, over the last five, 10 years or so … we’re going to take this money, we’re going to look after it, so that we can provide basic services to our people.”

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Mr Mashaba also pledged to tackle unemployment.

“Over 800,000 of our residents, one-in-three, are today unemployed. We need to address this and we need to address this as a matter of urgency.”

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