Bruised and battered: ANC still claims victory from municipal elections

Voters have punished the party, causing its biggest upset yet.

ANC DSG Jessie Duarte briefing the media at the national results operation centre. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - As the African National Congress (ANC) deals with a bruising defeat in the municipal elections, a humiliated ANC has yet again conceded that it needs to shape up.

Voters have punished the party, causing its biggest upset yet. It's now projected that the ANC will only manage under 50% of the total votes.

The party is now looking to negotiate coalition governments with others adding that nothing is off the table.

The party's Paul Mashatile said: “The coalitions are messy, yet the way voters voted, have put us in that situation. I think we, in South Africa, should understand that work in that environment. Coalitions are messy if you start on the wrong foot.”

It's a humbling admission for the governing party whose supporters have once again rejected it by staying away from the polls. Others chose new entrants to the political space.

Bruised and battered but still putting on a brave face the ANC still wanted to claim victory.

Leaders Jessie Duarte and Mashatile went to great pains on Wednesday afternoon to try convincing South Africans that its reduced majority across the country’s municipalities and metros was indeed a win.

Duarte insists the ANC did not emerge even weaker from these polls.

“Our numbers have gone down; we’ve given you the objective reasons why. That doesn’t make you a loser, that makes you a pragmatic party.”

Mashatile attempted to downplay the blow, flagging that in both Ekurhuleni and in the City of Johannesburg, the ANC governed through the assistance of smaller parties.

The ANC will hold an extended national working committee to start drafting principles that must guide it throughout this process.

WATCH: Duarte: Election results are a message to the ANC to shape up

A BLOODBATH FOR THE ANC IN GAUTENG

The ANC’s worst performance is most pronounced in the economic hub - Gauteng.

It looks set to retain governing majority in only two municipalities, Lesedi and Merafong.

It’s a bloodbath for ANC in Gauteng; in the 2011 local polls, they had received 61% but now they are fighting for survival not only in metros but in traditional strongholds as well.

ANC Gauteng chair David Makhura said: "So, the ANC has to understand this message: that the message of renewal is not yet convincing enough. It's not time to go back, it's not time to retreat on renewal. In fact, we really have to take the paddles and not be tempted to retreat. All the interventions we've been making so far in fixing the problems, that includes dealing with the issues of corruption, the message that's coming out of this election is that it is not enough. We are not winning people back to the base of the ANC."

The failure to stem the decline in the country’s richest province is a source of panic for the ANC. The party has struggled to self-correct, with its renewal plans deepening divisions within the party.

Makhura said they couldn't retreat: "That's not enough. But the deep socio-economic problems that people face, people don't feel we are doing enough to turn around their fortunes and their futures. I want to emphasise - it is not time to go back. We really need to do much, much more. In a sense, I would say the ANC must say we are very lucky. If two thirds of the people who didn't turn up had picked another party, we would be talking about something else. But what did they do? They decided to stay at home."

The ANC now faces the mammoth task of convincing opposition parties to form coalition governments with them.

The ANC’s defeat does not necessarily translate into gains by the official opposition.