Cape Town - Former DA leader Tony Leon on Wednesday said the ANC was the biggest loser in the local elections and the fight for the party's lost 3 million voters will determine the 2019 general elections.
Leon was speaking as part of a three-person panel discussion on the results of the 2016 local government elections at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday.
"The biggest loser in this election was the ANC, that is true. Although only 281 000 ANC voters ended up voting for someone else, 3 million chose not to vote in this election," he said.
"That's a lot of loyal ANC folk who chose not to vote.
"What happened in the suburbs of Port Elizabeth? The voting turnout was 67%. In the township, only 46% went to vote. And the difference in turnout was the margin of the DA win.
"Going forward, the question is: what happens to those lost 3 million ANC voters?"
'Black voters more complex than we admit'
Media personality Stephen Grootes hosted the panel.
Ralph Mathekga, head of political economy at the Mapungubwe Institute of Strategic Reflections, said the results have given new meaning to the phrase "all politics is local".
"I see the results of this election as a 'commotion from below'. The momentum was driven from below central and national powers.
"Suddenly, local government elections have become important, and it shows those who are in charge still can't fathom exactly what is happening on the ground.
"The so-called black voters are more complex than we'd like to admit."
Mathekga said the results show that SA politics is heading in the direction of "local regionalisation" for the first time since 1994.
"Self-interest is one of the drivers of local politics," he said.
"Political careers and survival have distanced themselves from what is happening at national level. I wouldn't be surprised if the ANC and the DA start negotiating locally.
"The two national leaderships will be upset by that, but the regional heads will be embracing these new local dynamics."
Leon said that the August 3 election was the acid test for the country's "democratic pushback" and had the DA failed to attain more than one metro, it would have been a failure for democratic processes.
"Before the elections, I said that in this year, in these circumstances, with Zuma, the Guptas and the ConCourt, if the DA could not win one metro beyond Cape Town, then that would be a failure for [not only] the DA leadership, but also our democracy.
"The three weeks we've been through have fundamentally changed South Africa.
"Whether it is just a seismic tremor, or an earthquake, will depend on the elections' consequences."
Leon said he was glad that his former party silenced the doubts, and that time will now tell what coalition politics will mean for the country's political landscape going forward.
"These elections don't mean that State behaviour or the president's appetite for further raids on State departments are going to change.
"But at least you're living in a country that has refreshed its democratic project, and that is a very good country to be in."