South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) is bleeding as a result of the major losses it suffered during the recent local government elections, says its Chief Parliament Whip, Jackson Mthembu.

Speaking during a debate in the National Assembly here Tuesday on the recent elections, he spoke about the pain the party had suffered losing several of the metropolitan municipalities, saying that the ANC had drawn some valuable lessons from these polls.

“Honourable Speaker, the ANC remains the people’s choice, notwithstanding the bleeding and hurt caused by losses in the metros. We’re bleeding because even though we are democrats and revolutionaries and we accept the people’s verdict, we are not rocks and stones. We are human beings. We have been affected by these elections as human beings,” said Mthembu.

It was a jovial mood for some opposition parties, however, who used the debate to rub salt into the ANC’s wounds, saying voters had used their votes to send a message to the ruling party.

They accused the ANC of being corrupt, arrogant and taking voters for granted. They said the election results indicated that people had rejected the ruling party.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), which is now in control of four of the country’s eight metros, which cover the major cities, said the elections paved the way for a re-alignment of multi-party politics.

Its leader, Mmusi Maimane, issued a stern warning to all DA councillors in the municipalities that their win would not be used as a platform to take people for granted.

“To my ANC colleagues on this side of the house, the lesson of this election is very clear: never take voters for granted. The voters are watching us and they will throw us out of office if we disrespect them. And I want to say to our DA colleagues, we now lead. Let us never arrogantly think that we have a divine right to rule or that we will govern until Jesus comes back. Let us govern with grace and humility.”

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema defended his party’s stance of voting for the DA in the hung councils. The EFF has been criticised by some for voting for the DA while it claims to be against white monopoly capital, which it accused the DA of defending.

Malema said they had to pause in their agenda and rescue the country, which he claims is on the brink of collapse from ANC misrule. He took a swipe at the ANC, saying the governing party co-opted and worked with former National Party members such as former President F.W. de Klerk in the government of national unity after the end of apartheid.

“You forget that you governed in a government of national unity with the National Party; the murderers themselves. You even made De Klerk a vice president, a man who presided over the genocide of black people. You gave the National Party (the portfolios of) Minister of Land, Minister of Finance and Minister of Mines. Sitting in these benches are people who come from the National Party. Who are you to educate us about white people when you were so prepared to embrace murderers?”

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) thanked voters for turning things around, as MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa explained: “It is possible to turn this country around and place it on a path of growth. Thanks to God, our people have stopped waiting for the government to do it; they are doing it for themselves. Through the vote, they are shifting the balance of power ….. and voting for leadership with integrity. To that, the IFP says, ‘Thank you’.”

The United Democratic Movement’s (UDM) Nqabayomzi Khwankwa didn’t mince words in defending their position of voting against the ANC in the hung municipalities while the leader of the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus), Pieter Mulder, said the election results indicated that smaller parties had a role to play and also that every vote counts.