South Africa president faces up to poor poll result

15 minutes agoLou Newton,Nomsa MasekoSABC

President Cyril Ramaphosa has described South Africa’s election results as a victory for its democracy, despite his African National Congress (ANC) party losing its majority for the first time.

The party, which was once led by Nelson Mandela, won 159 seats in the 400-seat parliament, down from 230 in the previous assembly.

It is the ANC’s worst election result since apartheid ended 30 years ago – though it still has by far the most seats.

The results announced on Sunday represent a sharp drop in support for the party, which now must go into a coalition to form the next government.

“Our people have spoken, whether we like it or not, they have spoken,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

“As the leaders of political parties, as all those who occupy positions of responsibility in society, we have heard the voices of our people and we must respect their wishes.”

He added that the voters wanted the parties to find common ground.

“Through their votes, they have demonstrated clearly and plainly that our democracy is strong and it is enduring,” he said.

South Africa’s political parties have two weeks to work out a coalition deal, then the new parliament will sit to choose a president.

The centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) remains the second-largest party in parliament and has said it is open to talks of a coalition.

Former president Jacob Zuma, who now leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party that came third, did not attend the results announcement and had suggested that he might challenge them.

Earlier in the day, Mr Zuma called for an election rerun and said the electoral commission should not announce the final results.

On Saturday, he warned the commission that it would “be provoking us” if it ignored his demand for a fresh election, and for an independent investigation into his party’s claims that it was rigged.

“Don’t start trouble when there is no trouble,” he said.

There are now concerns over how Mr Zuma’s supporters may respond to the results.

Mr Zuma has been the political wildcard in this election – and he is preparing to flex his muscles as the kingmaker in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where the MK party has wrestled a huge chunk of votes from the ANC.

Formed just a few months ago, results show that for the national election, it has taken the largest share of the vote in the province – 44% to the ANC’s 19%.

Local issues could have been a big factor in that shift, with some community members turning their backs on the ANC party because it had failed to fix acute water shortages.

Parts of the province, such as Trenance Park, which is a mere 20 minutes’ drive from the main city of Durban, have had no tap water for 10 months.

Residents rely on water tankers that sometimes do not deliver water on time.

People in KwaZulu-Natal hope that now the election is over, the problem will be fixed for good.

“The results reflect the will of the people,” says President Ramaphosa

Earlier, South Africa’s police chief warned that threats to destabilise the country would not be tolerated.

“There cannot be any room for threats of instability in order to register objections or concerns about the electoral processes,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said at a news conference.

With all the votes in from Wednesday’s poll, the ANC finished on 40% – down from 58% at the previous election.

This was lower than the party’s feared worst-case scenario of 45%, analysts said.

The ANC has always polled above 50% since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, which saw Nelson Mandela become president.

But support for the party has been dropping significantly because of anger over high levels of corruption, unemployment and crime.