GRAPHICS | The changing landscape of politics in SA's cities since 2000

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These six graphs tell the story of the changing political landscape in South Africa's biggest cities.

Seventy percent of South Africans live in urban areas - most of them in the cities.

The 2021 municipal elections delivered a dramatic shift away from the ANC and in some cities, the DA, to smaller parties. News24 tracked support for the five biggest parties in each metro for the past five municipal elections - 2000, 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2021. 

With the ANC's national support in this election dipping below 50% for the first time since the party was elected to lead South Africa's first democratic government in 1994, it is no surprise that the party suffered some of its biggest losses in cities it used to rule with a clear majority.

Made with Flourish

Probably the most significant result of this election – with the eThekwini shock in a close second place – was the ANC's dismal performance in the City of Gold.

Johannesburg, with its sprawling townships and growing middle-class population, has decisively rejected the governing party to lead it into the future. As reported on News24 this week, the liberation party suffered major losses in Johannesburg's townships, particularly Soweto.

Even more scary for the ANC is that many former ANC voters in places like Soweto, who did not choose to stay away, took their crosses to other parties. Here the biggest winner was Herman Mashaba's ActionSA.

READ | EXPLAINER: What happened in the 2021 municipal election: Who won, who lost and what now?

Mashaba managed to cross what once seemed like the impossible Rubicon: to eat into the ANC's support in Soweto.

On 16% support, Mashaba holds a very strong trump card for whichever party wants to form a coalition government in the city.

The ANC is not alone in its sorrow, with the DA receiving the lowest percentage of votes in Johannesburg since 2000. All the gains made by the DA since 2006, to reach a crescendo of support in 2016 with 38% of the vote, were wiped out.

The EFF remained flat on 11% - a devastating result for Julius Malema's party who must be wondering if this is their plateau in Jo'burg politics.

Made with Flourish

The capital city will again be governed by a coalition after neither the ANC, nor the DA could achieve an outright majority in Tshwane. Both parties saw their support drop since the last municipal elections in 2016.

The ANC is now on a meagre 35% in Tshwane – the lowest percentage support ever in a municipal election in democratic South Africa.

The Tshwane ANC has been marred by infighting for the past five years and this has shown in the results. Statistics don't lie – if the ANC does not do something drastically to turn around its fortunes in Tshwane, it is headed for the political graveyard.

The DA is back to 2006 levels, having shed significant support to the Freedom Front Plus in traditional Afrikaans suburbs in the city. This is devastating news for the DA, which attempted to woo Afrikaans voters since the resignation of former DA leader Mmusi Maimane in 2019.

READ | Hung municipalities in KZN see ANC scrambling for talks with rival parties

The DA's current leadership believes it had to regain its losses to the FF+ in 2019, but failed. The FF+ achieved an incredible 8% in Tshwane and will have to be involved in any governing coalition.

The EFF is down from 12% to 11% and Mashaba's ActionSA started its inroads into Tshwane on an impressive 9%.

Made with Flourish

In 2016, the ANC did not achieve an outright majority in Johannesburg's East Rand and had to work with the EFF and AIC to keep Mayor Mzwandile Masina and his executive in power.

This strategy did not work for the ANC; it is down a further 10 percentage points, to reach an all-time low of 38%. This means the ANC will be forced to work with the EFF again.

The red berets managed to increase their support from 11% in 2016 to 14%.

The DA's support has regressed to 2006 levels, with the party attracting only 29% of the vote, shedding support to ActionSA and the FF+.

The DA successfully managed to hang on to an outright majority in Cape Town, decisively beating the ANC (19%) and smaller parties, including Patricia de Lille's GOOD.

Made with Flourish

Although the DA is down from 67% in 2016 – an all-time high – the party did enough through its service delivery track record in the Mother City to stay in charge.

GOOD put up a tough fight, spending thousands on posters and campaigning, but failed to capture the imagination of Capetonians. De Lille's party only managed to score 4% of the vote – just ahead of the much smaller Cape Coloured Congress' 3%.

In 2006, De Lille's Independent Democrats managed to attract 11% of the votes before she joined forces with the DA.

Made with Flourish

A political earthquake hit the ANC in eThekwini – a city it has always won with a comfortable majority since 2006.

The party's 42% is the lowest percentage ever for the governing party in the municipality that includes Durban.

For the first time since 2000, the ANC will be forced to govern through a coalition in the coastal city. The EFF, with an impressive 10% is an obvious coalition partner for the ANC, bar a high-level co-governing arrangement between the ANC and the DA, which is no longer a political impossibility.

The DA is down slightly to 26% from its 27% support in 2016.

Made with Flourish

The messiest of the metros, Nelson Mandela Bay will likely be governed by a multi-party coalition that will include close to 10 parties.

Both the ANC and DA ended on 40% of the vote, shedding support since 2016, with the DA seeing the biggest drop of seven percentage points.

This is terrible news for the DA, which sent federal chairperson Helen Zille to campaign with incumbent mayor Nqaba Bhanga. The DA is back to its 2011 result and will be wondering what it did wrong to shed support to smaller, local parties.

READ | Younger SA voters ‘have lost trust in politicians’

The ANC is on a historic low in a city it ruled for years with a comfortable majority, even reaching the magical 66% number twice - in 2000 and 2006.

But the party may manage to be the leading partner in a coalition that will have to include the EFF and a plethora of super local parties, including the Northern Alliance, Abantu Integrity Movement and Defenders of the People.

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