Marianne Merten, Louise Flanagan and Anna Cox
Johannesburg - The ANC on Friday morning had only secured 52 percent of the Gauteng vote, well below the 64 percent they had in 2009.
With just over 88 percent of the province’s vote counted, the DA had scored 32 percent, and the Economic Freedom Fighters stood at just below 10 percent.
In 2009 the DA took 21 percent of the economic heartland’s vote.
But with 14 percent of the counting still to go, the ANC could claim more of Gauteng’s overall vote.
On Friday morning it was unclear why vote counting was so slow in Gauteng.
DA leader Helen Zille said she could not get an explanation from the IEC.
“I has asked the IEC and they can’t give me a convincing answer,” she said, adding that she had asked her team to cross-check what they could of Joburg’s results.
The IEC was unavailable for comment.
An independent analyst however said he had been told that the results in the Joburg, eThekwini and Mangaung metros had not been scanned in properly and had to be rescanned, but said he was sceptical of the explanation.
However, Zille was upbeat about the DA results generally, even if the party did not turn Gauteng blue.
“We came damn close. They (the ANC) got the fright of their political life,” she told Independent Newspapers on Friday.
The ANC and the CSIR projected that the party would get 63.3 percent of the national vote.
By 11am the ANC was well in the national lead at 62.38 percent, with nearly 97 percent of the ballots counted, followed by the DA at just over 22 percent.
A cheer went up from the EFF members at the IEC results centre in Pretoria as the 1 million mark was hit just after 7am on Friday.
This effectively meant that the 2014 election newcomers scored 6 percent on the national ballot.
The SADC Electoral Observation Mission on Friday morning said despite some problems, the “national and provincial elections were peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible, reflecting the will of the South African people”.
On Thursday night, President Jacob Zuma visited the results centre.
Earlier on Thursday ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said that he was happy with his party’s performance, but did not hold out for a two-thirds majority.
“It would be good if we could get it, but it’s not what we are talking about. We want a good election and a convincing majority,” Mantashe told Independent Newspapers.
The ANC on Thursday also indicated it would turn its attention to the 2016 municipal poll once the May 7 national and provincial elections were wrapped up.
On Thursday night in Alexandra, northern Joburg, 100 police officers had to be deployed following an altercation between the EFF, IFP and ANC officials and party agents.
A room in the IEC centre was set alight. Although there were people in the centre at the time of the fire, no injuries were reported.
There were also reports about tyres burnt outside the Alexandra Clinic in 8th Avenue.
Police arrested 31 people.
By Friday morning, calm had returned to the troubled township.
The results tally showed that the DA in the Western Cape increased its polling percentage by 7 percent to just over 58 percent, while it took over as the opposition from these elections’ biggest losers, Cope, in three provinces: the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the DA ousted the IFP as the provincial opposition, signalling a further decline of the party.
Nationally, the IFP hovered at just over 2 percent of the vote.
The EFF did worst in KwaZulu-Natal, where it scored just under 2 percent support, but emerged as the opposition in the legislatures in North West and Limpopo.
The UDM and the Freedom Front Plus maintained their niche appeal with a clearly defined voter base. They are set to maintain their parliamentary seats.
This year’s elections not only wiped out Cope, but also devastated other smaller political parties like the PAC, Azapo and provincially based parties like the Minority Front and the United Christian Democratic Party. All of them are set to lose their one seat in the National Assembly.
AgangSA scored just 44 000 votes, which may give party leader Mamphela Ramphele a seat in the National Assembly.
South African electoral politics have clearly turned into a power triangle - with the ANC dominating, the DA as the strongest opposition party and a distant third in the form of a debutante - this time the EFF, in 2009 Cope.
Ebrahim Fakir, political parties and parliamentary programme manager at the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, said perhaps it was time for electoral reform. “It’s nice to have the diversity and inclusiveness. But there’s very little policy or institutional impact.”
But Wednesday’s elections “embedded” free and fair elections in South Africa. “We’ve passed the teenage years,” Fakir said, but added that when the ANC was under threat, the party appeared not to hesitate to deploy state resources.
On Thursday, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon congratulated South Africa on this week’s elections. In a statement, he applauded “the determination of South Africans to participate meaningfully in the democratic system the country has fought so hard to establish, starting with the first multi-racial elections 20 years ago”.
As the results board at the IEC national results centre tallied up the votes on Thursday night, those whose electoral fortunes were on the wane put on a brave face.
IFP secretary-general Sibongile Nkomo dismissed claims that the IFP was being relegated. “We will have to watch until the last votes are cast,” she said, emphasising that the IFP had a national footprint.
Cope campaign head Dennis Bloem was also not quite ready to give up the fight: “We are soldiers. Soldiers don’t cry.”
Freedom Front Plus Gauteng premier candidate Anton Albert said: “We will survive the onslaught against smaller parties. And work (will) start on preparing for the next elections in 2019.
“For 2019, we’ll make sure we have a much larger kitty to play with the big boys.”
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, whose party was set to retain its four National Assembly seats, said it was not a matter of size, but principle.
Having fought the 2014 elections on an anti-corruption ticket, Holomisa said: “I’m not worried in Parliament. To me, what matters is not quantity, quality does.
“Thank God, the voters still have confidence in us.”