An ANC flag waves in Port Elizabeth. (Lulama Zenzile, file)
South Africa is on the edge of another five-year political cycle where heroes and saviours, crooks and villains and party spats and splits will be part of our national staple.
The IEC's Results Operational Centre on Saturday morning was largely deserted as battle-weary party agents, IEC officials and journalists made their way back to the cavernous hall with the casino-like atmosphere where the coup de grace was about to be delivered.
But whatever happens in the next five years, it will all be based on events at the ROC over the last couple of days.
ANC's slide continues
The governing party, which has secured enormous majorities since 1994, is now firmly in the sights of opposition parties.
From its zenith in 2004, there has been a consistent and constant decline in its fortunes.
Is is now, for the first time, solidly under 60% of national support. Has it been punished for state capture? Punishment was probably meted out in 2016.
South Africans seem to be a quite forgiving lot.
The rise of the EFF
Julius Malema's party, born from the ANC, is growing in leaps and bounds.
Its brand of racially infused populism (and its simple message of jobs and land) found fertile soil across the country.
It is now the official opposition in three provinces (North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga), have shot way past its support levels in 2014 and will go to Parliament with almost 40 MPs.
The DA grounds to a halt
The official opposition - still - is in deep trouble.
In an era of state capture, rampant corruption and poor governance it not only failed to capitalise on ANC and government malaise but managed to lose support.
If it cannot grow under those circumstances and convince voters to support it, never mind make leaps forward, when will it be able to?
Will the centre hold?
Increased support for the EFF, coupled with the tripling support of the Freedom Front Plus, might signal the awakening of a new kind of nationalism.
Both the EFF and the FF Plus focus their efforts on specific segments of the electorate: The EFF champions black, socialist interests and the FF Plus disaffected Afrikaner interests.
Both took away votes from the centre left and centre right ANC and DA. Although combined they account for only about 15% of voters, it is significant.
With 48 parties registering to take part in the general election - at a hefty R200 000 registration fee - voters were spoilt for choice.
But the reality of campaigning, selling a message and getting your supporters to vote was too much for most.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng didn't even get a single vote at the voting station where his family voted.
Of the 48 parties who participated maybe 12 will be represented in Parliament.
The rest… well, they've been put out to pasture.
Game of Thrones
The inernal battle for control of the ANC and the resources its government commands is back in full swing after the tentative and flimsy truce observed by the warring factions. On Friday the ANC’s secretary-general Ace Magashule and elections manager Fikile Mblaula fired the first shots when the former refused to recognise the role played by President Cyril Rampahosa in the campaign, and Mbalula, who believes Ramaphosa kept them afloat. Rumours about backstabbing, faction forming and plotting abounded on Friday at the ROC.
The election has finally released Ramaphosa from the constraints of the government and Cabinet of his destructive predecessor.
He will now be able to appoint ministers of his choosing and reconfigure government departments as he sees fit. How he does it and who he omits from his national executive will be instructive on the state of play inside the ANC.
South Africans are gatvol
There has been growth for some parties, some have declined and some are dead or dying.
But the low voter turnout - which will end up at 66% - shows that many voters have lost confidence in the political class's ability to improve the fortunes of South Africans.
That translates into a full third of people who can vote, but choose not to do so.
South Africans want something different, they want leadership and they want to be inspired. The current lot does not seem to inspire confidence.
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