The ANC has made some significant gains on the DA in two Western Cape by-elections, with the DA losing 17 percent and 9.6 percent in two wards — although not enough to be unseated in either.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) released the results of four by-elections held on Wednesday — two in Western Cape and two in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
The DA retained their wards in both the Saldanha Bay and Oudtshoorn municipalities.
The party held on to its majorities by slim margins in these traditional strongholds, which saw substantial swings in favour of the ANC opposition.
In Ward 3 in Saldanha Bay, the DA retained the seat it had won in the 2016 municipal elections, "however, with a reduced margin of 52.82 percent of the votes cast, compared to 69.99 percent in the 2016 municipal elections," an IEC statement read.
On the other hand, the ANC increased its share of the vote from 24 percent to 39 percent in the ward over the same period.
In Ward 13 in Oudtshoorn, the DA "retained the seat it won in the 2016 municipal elections, however with a reduced margin of 50.59 percent of the votes cast, compared to 60.19 percent".
The ANC increased its support from 27 percent to 44 percent in the ward in the same period.
There was also a slightly decreased turnout in the two by-elections, with 40.21 percent turning out in Saldanha Bay, and 52.85 percent in Oudtshoorn.
DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela admitted that the party had challenges in dealing with voter frustration, which was evident from the latest results.
"It's not a secret that we have a number of challenges currently," he told News24. "We all know what is happening in Cape Town, and we've been very upfront that voters get turned off when parties are focused internally.
"Under those conditions, I can accept any win. Of course, as leader I'm not happy that we've dropped, but the fact that we've retained our wards under current conditions, I can accept that."
Madikizela said it was fortunate that the "wake-up" call had come early enough for the party to adjust ahead of next year's national and provincial elections.
He felt the slim victories showed there was still opportunity for the party to arrest the decline and come back stronger.
It's currently embarking on its "Let's Talk" campaign to get voter feedback in DA wards across the province and give voters a chance to vent their frustrations.
"We are facing the music and trying to regain the support. We have started to do that. On Saturday, we had our federal leader [Mmusi Maimane] at one of these meetings, and everyone came out of that meeting re-energised.
"It is true that some voters have been demoralised, but that campaign has allowed voters to vent — and more importantly, it has given us an opportunity to understand the issues better."
Meanwhile, the ANC in Western Cape saw increases of almost 20 percent in the Oudtshoorn ward.
Provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs praised the party's newfound fortunes, attributing it to the promise of the "new dawn" under President Cyril Ramaphosa.
"This increase has seen [the] ANC winning one of the two voting districts, although this was offset by a slightly bigger DA margin in the second voting district, giving [the] DA a very slim victory of 122 votess," he said. "The DA has indeed lost all [its] 2016 gains, losing a whopping 10 percent of its voters compared to 2016, and have been pushed back to 2011 number."
"This affirms the power of the 'new dawn' and the positive impact of a renewing ANC in just a space of five months," he claimed.
Jacobs finished his statement by saying that the party was confident that the next elections were going to see "sweeping changes" in Western Cape wards and municipalities.
Elsewhere in the country, the DA won Ward 10 in the eThekwini municipality with an increased margin of 94.23 percent of the votes cast, compared to 91.13 percent in the 2016 municipal elections. Voter turnout was 40.08 percent.
Meanwhile, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) continued its gains in KZN, retaining Ward 7 in the Nkandla municipality, with an increased margin of 53.33 percent of the votes, compared to 51.26 percent in the 2016 municipal elections. Voter turnout was 65.07 percent.