The ANC managed to hold on to the metropolitan area of eThekwini, its former stronghold that includes the city of Durban, where its mayoral candidate won against an opposition-backed Democratic Alliance candidate.
The ANC’s weak showing in the municipal elections is widely seen as a result of growing voter disillusionment with the party over poor delivery of basic services, crippling power cuts and numerous allegations of corruption against many of its leaders. Its internal divisions are blamed for its failure to form governing coalitions.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC's leader, described the loss of the cities as a “big setback.”
“As president of the governing party, it is disappointing for the African National Congress but that is how we should accept the clear message of our people," said Ramaphosa. "We have taken heed. We have listened and this for us is a big setback but it is also a big lesson.”
The ANC has however gained control of the metropolitan area of Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth).
South Africa's local government elections take place every five years and determine the composition of city councils responsible for providing essential services like water, waste removal and sanitation. The councilors then elect mayors.