South Africa's ruling African National Congress party has lost local elections, losing ground to the opposition Democratic Alliance. The results could be a harbinger of seismic political change in the post-apartheid era.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance, said the election represented a "tipping point"
In Tshwane, a metropolitan area that includes Pretoria, the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 43.1 percent of the vote over the ANC's 41.2 percent, the electoral commission reported.
The loss of Pretoria comes on top of the ANC conceding defeat Friday in Port Elizabeth, a key battleground.
A loss in Port Elizabeth by a margin of 46.7 percent to 40 percent was a blow for the ANC in the municipality known as "Nelson Mandela Bay."
Many South Africans have criticized President Jacob Zuma and his ANC for poor economic growth, high unemployment, corruption and cronyism, a housing crisis, poor education and health systems.
The DA was once considered a champion of the white middle classes and has its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane. It has built a reputation for competent management in Cape Town, its only power base to date, but has been dogged by accusations of racism. A shadow cabinet member, for example, was demoted in 2015 after sharing a Facebook post praising apartheid president P.W. Botha.
South Africans also voted in smaller but relatively large numbers for the Economic Freedom Fighters, a far-left party led by former ANC member Julius Malema.
DA leader Maimane hailed the result as a landmark for his party. "This is a tipping point for the people of South Africa," he said. "This represents for all of us the fact that we are a party not only of opposition but of government."
Turnout was about 58 percent, as voters chose mayors and other local representatives responsible for hot-button issues including water, sanitation and power supplies.
The position of Zuma, 74, as head of state is coming under question even though his mandate still has three years to run after a poll widely seen as a referendum on a leader plagued by scandals since taking office in 2009.
"Election after election, the ANC has hung on its past glory and kept its place in the hearts of most South Africans … This time round, though, it's not enough," the "Mail & Guardian" newspaper said in an editorial, referring to the party's legacy in ending apartheid and bringing to power the country's first black president, Nelson Mandela.
jbh/jlw (AFP, AP)