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Ruling party put on notice by electorate

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These numbers, and a proliferation of political parties, point to an electoral restlessness where voters are looking hard for real progress and better

FILE PHOTO: A supporter holds a placard with the face of President of South Africas governing African National Congress Cyril Ramaphosa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

THE country’s sixth national/provincial ballot held an explicit, potent message for all our public representatives: citizens’ patience has run out, deliver on promises, and give South Africans a decent, competent government.

Flashing amber lights came, firstly, from voter turnout: Although there were about 1.4million more registered voters this time, 983000 fewer turned out than five years ago, meaning that more than 9.3million (34%) did not bother this time to vote.

For the ANC, a sixth clear victory can offer it only momentary comfort.

It’s backing shrank 1.4million votes compared with 2014, plummeting from a peak of 69.69% in 2004 to 57.5% (230 seats in Parliament) on Wednesday. The warning here was inescapable: the days of unquestioning allegiance are fast fading.

The DA sagged from 22.23% to 20.77% (a loss of 470000 votes, meaning 84 MPs now), also a cause for grave concern among party strategists.

Though it retained the Western Cape, a downturn in its healthy growth trend over many years demands introspection.

The EFF gained 612000 votes, boosting its caucus of MPs from 25 to 44, widening the noisy red wedge sitting in the National Assembly. But its 1.88million votes were clearly not as many as it had anticipated.

Other gainers were the IFP (14 seats now), which increased its support by 147000 (probably reclaiming the bulk of the 227000 the National Freedom Party shed) and the Freedom Front Plus (10 seats now), which drew a following of 414000, a rise of 250000. Presumably this was because of its firm stance on land expropriation.

These numbers, and a proliferation of political parties, point to an electoral restlessness where voters are looking hard for real progress and better.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s immense challenges start today, with a special meeting of the ANC national executive committee.

His changes are going to have to be far bolder than heartening commissions of inquiry and encouraging appointments so far of the likes of Shamila Batohi and Edward Kieswetter.

When he first came to office, he announced a new dawn for South Africa. There has been much talk of restoring this country to what it should be and there have been slivers of light. But the people have just told Ramaphosa they want to enjoy the full warmth of the early sun on their faces.