South Africans fill ballot paper at a polling station during elections at KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga. Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP
The more than 17 million South Africans who cast votes during last week’s provincial and national elections have sent a stern warning to political parties, in particular the ANC and the DA.

For the governing ANC, the 2019 general elections were another turning point, as the party shed 4.6 percentage points from its 2014 poll results.

The ruling party also narrowly won Gauteng, the country’s economic hub.

Former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe put it aptly after voting on May 8 at the Killarney Country Club, when he said the leadership of the ANC was well aware that this was the last chance for the party to address its weaknesses. The organisation has bled 1410446 votes from 2009 to now.

Voters who dumped the party demonstrated their displeasure with the weaknesses crippling the organisation. Years of corruption and state capture have eroded the trust many had in the ruling party.

It is therefore incumbent on President Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver on his promises of cleaning up government and urgently dealing with the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The men and women who Ramaphosa puts into his new Cabinet will be a signal of his real intentions. The Cabinet was one of the key structures of the state that was captured to enable the looting of the state-owned enterprises, among others.

The DA’s national decline - with 470396 fewer votes for the opposition party - sent a clear message that the organisation needs to be clear on its policies addressing the legacy of apartheid.

For some time the DA has been lurching from one disaster to the next, especially it’s handling of former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. There is a perception that the opposition party is run by white people who don’t have the interests of black people at heart.

The party’s loss of votes - from 22.23% under Helen Zille in 2014, to 20.77% this year - is a clear message from voters that something is wrong with the party. The decline of the DA is set to continue if it doesn’t get its house in order.

That DA leader Mmusi Maimane and his leadership cohort failed to grow the party in the face of all the problems afflicting the ANC is telling.

The ANC, as Motlanthe said, has a last chance to redeem itself or face the real prospect of losing power in the next elections.

The people have spoken, it’s up to government to deliver now.

* George Matlala is head of Independent Media's Political Bureau in Gauteng.