|ANC's opposition has made steady gains, despite the ANC victory in local elections [Al Jazeera]
With 80 per cent of votes counted, South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) is poised to sweep to victory in local elections but gains by the main opposition indicate growing frustration at the ruling party, in power since apartheid ended 17 years ago.
The ANC had secured 63.6 per cent of the vote as of Friday, but its final result will likely be less than the 67 per cent it gained in the 2006 elections.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), once associated with white privilege and now trying to recreate itself as the party of good governance for all, has seen its support jump to 22.1 per cent from 14 per cent in 2006.
A drop in support for the ANC is unlikely to bring major policy changes but it could jeopardise president Jacob Zuma's chances of re-election when his party chooses a leader next year. The ANC may also seek to win back disenchanted voters by increasing spending.
Final audited results for the election held on Wednesday for 278 municipalities, including major metropolitan areas, could be released by the weekend.
The DA cut into ANC margins in major cities already controlled by the ruling party and received a growing show of support in Cape Town, the only major DA-controlled metro.
Despite the DA gains, analysts said it may take decades before an opposition party has a chance of taking over from the ANC, which still commands enormous respect and wins votes for its role in ending apartheid.
"Only 8 per cent of registered voters are white. Do the simple maths, white people are not the only ones who voted for the DA," DA leader Helen Zille said in an interview on local radio.
Despite investing billions of dollars in infrastructure, the ANC-led government has struggled to address apartheid-era problems, with nearly half the population living in poverty. Reports of senior officials using political positions and connections in the ruling party to amass personal wealth could have contributed to the drop in support.
"The ruling party has lost ground. They are acknowledging delivery failures, internal conflicts and corruption," said independent political analyst Nic Borain. "Implicitly, the ANC knows this election will have an effect, the ruling party must clean up its act."
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told Al Jazeera that it would take the ANC more than a mere 17 years to erase a legacy that excluded the majority for over 300 years. But Mmusi Maimane, the DA's candidate for Johannesburg alleged that more could be done if the party were not riddled by corruption and cronyism.