|Early morning voters wait to cast their ballots for municipal elections on Wednesday morning. [Reuters]
South Africa's main opposition party is headed for major gains in elections for local bodies despite the ruling African National Conference (ANC) enjoying a comfortable lead, preliminary results show.
With 71 per cent of the votes counted following Wednesday's polls in 278 municipalities, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the country's main opposition party, already had 24 per cent of the vote in contrast to just 14 per cent it bagged in 2006.
Preliminary results available on Thursday showed the ANC with 61.9 per cent of the vote. In 2006, the party's vote share stood at 67.7 per cent.
Final results could be released by the weekend, according to an Independent Election Commission official.
The early results indicate a growing frustration with the ruling party 20 years after it ended the racialised apartheid governance system and 17 years after it saw the country's first racially integrated elections.
The slip in support could embarrass President Jacob Zuma and jeopardise his chances of re-election when the ruling party chooses new leaders next year.
The shift is largely credited to a popular distrust in ANC promises and direct revelations about its corruption as well as failing to keep up with the demand for decent housing, schools, running water and other basic needs.
The ANC has lost support in many of the country's provinces, with the biggest shift coming from the Western Cape, a DA stronghold that is home to Cape Town.
The DA, led by Helen Zille, a former journalist once associated with white political privilege, has set out to use its administration of Cape Town to show it can govern better.
Recent election campaigns highlighted the racial tension still present since apartheid fell, with ANC supporters pointing to white leaders of the opposition and painting their own as the party of anti-apartheid heroes.
"The DA's advances do not reflect a conquest of the ANC's traditional support which is mostly African township residents who have been seriously loyal to the ANC," said Wits University political analyst Susan Booysen.
Despite government spending of billions of dollars on redressing apartheid-era inequalities, ANC efforts have been less successful than it hoped, and millions of people still live in grinding poverty without access to sanitation and proper housing.
Events Ranenyine, an accounting clerk from the outskirts of Johannesburg who said he voted for the ANC, said he believes the party that defeated apartheid deserves one more chance.
Ranenyine said he waited two hours to vote in the last local elections, but on Wednesday, he waited only 40 minutes.
He also said many of his neighbours stayed home because they didn't want to vote for the ANC, but also
don't have faith in other parties.
"They're tired", he said of his neighbours. "They're so very tired of being lied to."
While Ranenyine was proud to have again voted for the ANC, this is the last chance he's giving it.
If problems aren't resolved, in his own words, "I'll vote for DA."