National figures dish up few surprises

SOUTH Africans prepared themselves last night for five more years of rule by President Jacob Zuma as the ANC moved closer to re-election by a reduced majority, with final results still being awaited.

The ANC is assured of another solid victory, but by last night all indications were that its majority could be the smallest since the 1994 elections, and that it would miss the two-thirds majority which would have empowered it to alter the constitution unilaterally.

Nevertheless, the expected ANC majority of between 63% and 65% is a massive achievement in an election contested by almost 30 parties.

Also, the ANC was on course to retain its majority in eight out of the country's nine provinces, surviving strong challenges from the DA in Gauteng and the Northern Cape.

But the Western Cape lived up to its name by bucking the national trend and retaining the DA's Helen Zille as premier with an improved majority of about 60%.

It was a good election for the DA, which showed strong growth, improving from 16.7% in 2009 to an expected final tally of between 22% and 23%.

The DA replaced COPE as the official opposition in the Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape; retained its position as official opposition in Mpumalanga and Gauteng, but lost out to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who will be the official opposition in North West and Limpopo, the home province of its leader, Julius Malema.

Unless Malema gets tripped up by legal issues, he should lead a team of about 20 MPs to parliament, with the EFF headed for about 5% of the vote.

The EFF did well in Gauteng, beating the ANC at some polling stations in Alexandra township.

A massive battle was brewing for the official opposition spot in KwaZulu-Natal, where the IFP was battling last night to maintain its lead from the rural areas against a strong urban showing by the DA.

The IFP was badly hurt by a remarkably strong showing by its spin-off party, the NFP.

The two biggest losers have been COPE, which will be greatly diminished in parliament, and AgangSA, whose leader, Mamphela Ramphele, looks destined to be its only MP.

At around 8pm last night, Zuma visited the election results centre in Pretoria. He went to the tables used by the different participating parties. The moment of truth arrived when he arrived at the DA table, to come face to face with Zille.

"Oh, are you here?" Zuma asked.

"Yes, we are the blue umshini wami," Zille replied as they exchanged greetings and pleasantries.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa asked Zille: "Do you feel strong?", upon which she replied in the affirmative.

"Well, I'll see you around soon," Zuma said as he took his leave, thinking no doubt of the future cabinet lekgotlas the formidable Zille would have the right to attend, now that she has been re-elected Western Cape premier. - Jan-Jan Joubert