Johannesburg - ANC support was strong and stable, DA support seemed slightly on the rise, and a brand-new opposition party surprised even itself in preliminary municipal election results released on Thursday.
By 16:00, with 80% of the results audited and released, the African National Congress was mourning the loss of Midvaal municipality in Gauteng, but celebrating a convincing victory in Nelson Mandela Bay in the closely contested Eastern Cape.
"We are absolutely happy. We are ecstatic," said ANC Eastern Cape leader Phumulo Masualle after it became apparent that the party had an unassailable lead in the metro, where it was leading with 51.7% over the DA's 40.35%.
Countrywide, the ANC had garnered 64.17% of the vote by 16:00 and the DA 21.57%.
In the City of Cape Town, the opposition Democratic Alliance was waiting with bated breath for final results, where it was already standing at 72.06%, compared to the ANC's 22.86%.
The Independent Electoral Commission said that by early afternoon it had captured 60% of votes in the Cape Town metro, where the DA is hoping to retain control after a close contest with the ANC.
Overall in the Western Cape, the DA was standing at 58.9% and the ANC at 31.4%.
It had already started celebrating its Midvaal win, the only municipality in Gauteng not run by the ANC.
"If I can get this result from dancing, I will do it again for the next election," said DA leader Helen Zille, referring to criticism by her political rivals of her dancing moves during electioneering.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the ruling party was "very disappointed" about the Midvaal loss.
"The ANC must work harder, we are not doing well in the minority areas," Mantashe said at the IEC results centre in Pretoria.
"We are sorry we didn't take it [Midvaal]... we really wanted it."
Elsewhere in Gauteng, the ANC was standing on 60.81% by 16:00, compared to the DA's 32.47%. In Tshwane, the ANC had secured 60% of the vote so far, compared to the DA's 33.9%.
One party that was definitely not disappointed, was the National Freedom Party, whose leader, Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, broke away only three months ago from the once influential, mainly Zulu, Inkatha Freedom Party, after a leadership squabble with Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
The NFP had secured 2.6% of the national vote, compared to 3.92% by the IFP, which, at its peak in the 2000 local government elections, garnered nine percent of the vote.
"We didn't expect this at all. This party is still at infancy," said NFP convenor Evans Sosibo. "We are very happy because this sets a solid foundation for us in the 2014 election."
Political analyst Nhlanhla Mtaka said the party would be kingmaker in a number of KwaZulu-Natal municipalities.
"It is true that politics is a cruel game. A party which was considered a nonentity has now emerged as a kingmaker," said Mtaka.
Inkatha Freedom Party chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Bonginkosi Buthelezi, conceded that his party's show was disappointing.
"Although we knew that the NFP was going to be a factor, we did not know that it would be to this degree," he said.
"The IFP went to the election with the intention of winning, we are obviously disappointed with this outcome," Buthelezi added.
Overall in KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC scored 55.11%, the IFP 20.04%, the NFP 12.8% and the DA 8.95%.
In the Eastern Cape, the ANC was ahead of the pack with 73.07%, followed by the DA (14.92%), Congress of the People (4.18%) and the United Democratic Movement (3.79 percent).
The ANC was leading with 69.31% in the Free State, after the DA's 22.79% and Cope's 3.73%.
The ruling party was also the convincing winner in the North West (75%), Mpumalanga (79%) and Limpopo (82%).
Nationally, Cope, another opposition party marred by in-fighting, had secured 2.57% of the vote by 16:00.
It secured 11.9% of the vote in the Northern Cape, where the ANC had 63% by 16:00, and the DA 22.27%.
The UDM was standing nationally on 0.78% and the Freedom Front Plus was on 0.5%.
Some 121 parties contested in the elections.
The Dagga Party managed 248 votes so far. However, this was more than the Abolition of Income Tax and Usury Party which scored 123 votes.
But the biggest loser seemed to be the Liberal Democratic Party with 27 votes.
In the last municipal elections in 2006, the ANC walked away with 64.8% of the vote, the DA with 16% and the IFP with 7.6%.
In 2000, the ANC garnered 59% of the local vote, the DA 22 and the IFP nine.