ANC suffers losses in S.Africa by-elections

A street vendor sells ANC flags in Bloemfontein on December 19, 2012.  By Stephane de Sakutin (AFP/File)

A street vendor sells ANC flags in Bloemfontein on December 19, 2012. By Stephane de Sakutin (AFP/File)

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa’s ANC suffered the heaviest losses in this week’s countrywide by-elections, results showed Thursday, with the ruling party losing three seats in polls seen as a key barometer ahead of next year’s general elections.

The African National Congress — famed for its struggle against apartheid — lost four seats and picked up one in 19 contests across the nation on Wednesday, in an outcome claimed as a victory by the opposition.

Independent candidates made the largest gains, wresting three seats from the ANC, which has recently come under fire for corruption and mismanagement in government.

Two of those seats were won in the northern province of Limpopo, where the ANC has seen bitter internal divisions over the leadership of the party and the fate of former youth leader Julius Malema.

Malema was expelled from the ANC last year for criticising President Jacob Zuma.

The opposition Democratic Alliance, which came second at the last general election, failed to win any ANC seats, but was buoyed by strengthened support in Johannesburg and the North West and inroads made elsewhere.

The party, which controls the Western Cape, including Cape Town, hopes to target the province surrounding Johannesburg during next year’s election.

“This growth in former ANC strongholds bodes well for the DA’s prospects at the national and provincial elections to be held next year,” the party said in a statement.

But according to political analyst Daniel Silke, the results pointed to “marginally softer” support for the ANC rather than a swing to any opposition party.

The ANC was not immediately available for comment.