Johannesburg — The final results of a tumultuous South African election are expected to be declared late Sunday, though what is already evident is that the governing party has lost its majority for the first time.

A former South African president once boasted that the African National Congress would rule “until Jesus comes back.”

There’s a joke now doing the rounds in South Africa that Jesus must have returned, given the bashing the party took in general elections this week.

In a seismic political shift, the ANC lost its parliamentary majority for the first time, getting just 40 percent of the vote.

It was a chastened ANC when the party’s secretary-general Fikile Mbalula made the first public remarks since the vote, acknowledging that there was “nothing to celebrate” but “It is the will of the people, and that is what we must accept.”

“The African National Congress commends the people of South Africa for once again demonstrating the strength and vibrancy of our democracy. The results send a clear message to the ANC. We wish to assure the people of South Africa that we have heard them, we have heard their concerns, their frustrations and their dissatisfaction,” Mbalula said.

Mbalula stressed that contrary to some reports the party would not be asking President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down. In terms of who the ANC might now go into coalition with, he said they were engaging with other parties, without specifying.

David Everatt, a professor at Johannesburg’s Wits School of Governance said he suspected “almost everything” was still on the table in terms of coalitions.

The party that got the second largest amount of votes, at over 21 percent, was the Democratic Alliance, or DA, which the business-minded would prefer to see in a coalition.

However, some in the ANC might balk at going into an alliance with them as they are seen as a “white” party, and prefer to go with a radical party like the Economic Freedom Fighters, he said.

“The political arithmetic is being recalibrated almost hourly…we’ll have final results by the end of today, being Sunday, and after that they have to horse-trade very quickly, because they don’t have very long before we have to form, or they have to form, a government,” he said.

One of the main upsets of the election was newly formed party uMkhonto weSizwe, or MK, led by former President Jacob Zuma. Coming in with around 14 percent of the votes, MK ate into some of the ANC’s support.

Ironically it was Zuma who made the comment about the ANC governing until Jesus returns.

Zuma, 82, has an axe to grind with the ANC, after it forced him to resign from the presidency in 2018 amid corruption scandals.

On Saturday, the former ANC stalwart-turned-disrupter called for a delay in the official declaration of results, alleging rigging and demanding a re-count. He provided no proof for this claim, and the election on Wednesday has been widely praised as free and fair.

However Zuma intimated there could be violence if the announcement of official results went ahead as planned, said Everatt.

“This is not a democrat, this is an autocrat who is threatening violence to try to get what he wants,” he said.

However the electoral commission said while they were dealing with challenges to the vote, the announcement would go ahead Sunday night at a conference center in Johannesburg.

President Ramaphosa has confirmed his attendance.

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