Johannesburg - Municipal elections meant slightly fewer votes for the ANC and quite a bit more for the DA, according to results released on Thursday evening.
By 20:00, with 89.9% of the votes counted and checked, the ruling African National Congress had garnered 63.78% of the vote - slightly less than past elections - while the main opposition Democratic Alliance improved in all nine provinces after scoring 21.83% nationally.
The results showed that South Africa's fourth post-apartheid local government elections was mainly a two-horse race, with only two real players among the 121 parties that participated.
Although the ANC remained the main player, it was its worst showing in five years. In the last municipal elections in 2006, the ANC secured 66.3% of the vote and the DA 14.8%.
In the last national elections in 2009, the ANC got 65.9% and the DA 16.7%.
But Justice Minister Jeff Radebe was unperturbed, saying the ruling party still enjoyed overwhelming support.
"This is because the ANC is the political home of all our people. It’s a family. Having a protest does not amount to anti-ANC," Radebe said at the Independent Electoral Commission’s results centre in Pretoria.
"When you have a fight with your family, it doesn’t mean you turn your back on them."
The brand-new National Freedom Party (NFP), which broke away three months ago from the Inkatha Freedom Party, surprised even itself by securing 2.61% of the national vote, compared to the IFP's 4.02%, which, at its peak in the 2000 local government elections, garnered 9% of the vote.
The DA managed to keep its grip on Midvaal municipality, the only municipality in Gauteng not controlled by the ANC, while the ruling party countered predictions that it may lose to the DA in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, where the ANC secured a convincing victory.
City of Cape Town
The DA was confident of a win in the City of Cape Town, where results by 20:00 showed the party sitting with 65.71% of the votes, while the ANC had 28.42%.
Overall in the Western Cape, the DA was standing at 58.34% and the ANC at 32.39%.
The ANC's mayoral candidate in Cape Town, Tony Ehrenreich, told Sapa he believed the ANC's score would grow as counting continued on the Cape Flats, but conceded that the party had failed to win coloured voters away from the DA.
"I don't think we were going to be able to turn around traditional support to other parties so quickly," he said, adding that people were still voting according to "apartheid faultlines" in the province.
"Coloured areas voted for the DA. So that must tell you that in coloured areas people feel scared and more secure with people who had traditionally given coloureds a better deal," said Ehrenreich.
DA leader Helen Zille had already started celebrating.
"If I can get this result from dancing, I will do it again for the next election," she said, 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 59.87% by 20:00, compared to the DA's 33.38%. In Tshwane, the ANC had secured 56.02% of the vote so far, compared to the DA's 37.95%.
One party that was definitely not disappointed, was the NFP, whose leader, Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, broke away from the once influential, mainly Zulu, IFP, after a leadership squabble with Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
"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.
IFP chair 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%, the IFP 20%, the NFP 12% and the DA 9%.
In the Eastern Cape, the ANC was ahead of the pack with 73%, followed by the DA (14%), Congress of the People (4%) and the United Democratic Movement (4%).
The ANC had 70% in the Free State, ahead of the DA's 22% and Cope's 4%.
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 2.45% of the vote by 20:00.
It secured 12% of the vote in the Northern Cape, where the ANC had 64% by 20:00, and the DA 22%.
The United Democratic Movement was standing nationally on 0.74% and the Freedom Front Plus was on 0.48%.