East London - The ANC won a decisive local government election victory in its heartland in the Eastern Cape on Thursday.
The party won 73.2% of the vote in the province, a victory that provincial leader Phumulo Masualle said was "decisive" and proof that communities across the province wanted to partner with the party to improve their conditions.
"It is clear that the people of this province have potent confidence in the policies and programmes of the ANC," he said after the announcement of the final preliminary results of the election at the Independent Electoral Commission's results centre in East London.
"They have made it clear that they are keen to work with the ANC in shaping up their lives."
The ANC won in municipalities across the province with resounding victories in Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo where it took 33 out of 35 wards, including Chris Hani, Joe Gqabi, Cacadu and Amathole, he said.
Earlier Masualle said the party was "ecstatic" about winning the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, where the Democratic Alliance and the Congress of the People had hoped to form a governing coalition.
"We are absolutely happy. We are ecstatic," Masualle said in East London shortly after it became apparent that the party had an unassailable lead in the metro.
"We are ready to run Nelson Mandela Bay again. We will continue to work with opposition parties to improve the lives of the poor in the metro."
The preliminary results from the IEC show that the ANC won 51.91% of the vote in the metro, compared to the 40.12%t of the DA and 4.95% of the Congress of the People.
Masualle said the party would keep a close watch on newly elected councillors in the Eastern Cape and would be "tight" on accountability.
He said those in the ANC who had wasted their time taking the party to court over its candidate lists should rejoin the party and start working among communities again.
People who had chosen not to vote, such as those who "arranged soccer matches" and chased away people with voting ink on their fingers, had basically told those who were tortured and died in the struggle against apartheid they had "done it for nothing".
DA provincial leader Athol Trollip said he was thrilled at the party's performance in the province.
The party won just 14.68% of the vote, but had more than "doubled" and even quadrupled its support in municipalities across the province.
He said the DA had fared extremely well in the northern parts of Port Elizabeth, specifically in Uitenhage and Despatch.
"Our performance in those areas was historic and sets us up for an assault on the metro in the next election."
The party had made inroads across the Eastern Cape, winning in numerous of its non-traditional areas, even picking up a seat in the ANC-dominated town of Flagstaff.
Trollip said the party's retention of Baviaans, the only municipality it controls in the Eastern Cape, was "heroic".
"Across the Eastern Cape we doubled and quadrupled our support, whether it was Grahamstown or Queenstown.
"The seat we won in Flagstaff was in the Transkei, which is a low-key area for the DA's growth and the fact that we have a councillor there augurs well for the future."
Trollip said smaller parties had kept the ANC in power in the Kouga municipality, which includes Jeffreys Bay, where the seats were split 15 to the ANC and 14 to opposition parties.
He predicted, though, that this would be the last election for smaller parties.
"This election will spell the end of smaller parties and it is now clear that the race in future will be between the ANC and DA with Cope in a distant third."
Before closing the results centre IEC provincial officer Bongani Finca said "responsible political leaders" helped avoid a bloodbath in the build up to the elections in the Eastern Cape.
"This election was not an easy one," he said.
"From the moment the proclamation was made, we knew is would be an election with difficulties. Lots of drama unfolded, there were high levels of tension and high levels of discontentment.
"We could have had a bloodbath in this province, but I have to thank the political leaders for the way they handled themselves in what was a fiercely contested election."
There were many who had "threatened" the election, he said.
"Many letters were sent to us where we were told not to deliver to places because the community - there were many purporting to represent their community - would burn the IEC facilities down.
"But through the commitment of the police we did not have a single voting station that did not open in this election.
"We were able to give people the right to do what we have struggled for and what many people died for," said Finca.