By Peroshni Govender
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's ANC was poised to sweep to victory in local elections but gains by the main opposition DA indicate growing anger at the ruling party, which has been in power since apartheid ended 17 years ago.
The African National Congress had secured 63.6 percent of the vote, as of Friday when almost all of the ballots had been counted, but its final result will likely be less than the 67 percent it gained in the 2006 elections.
The Democratic Alliance, once associated with white privilege and now trying to recreate itself as the party of good governance for all, has seen its support jump to 22.1 percent from 14 percent in 2006.
A drop in support for the ANC is unlikely to bring major policy changes but it could jeopardize President Jacob Zuma's chances of re-election when his party chooses a leader next year. The ANC may also seek to win back disenchanted voters by increasing spending.
Final audited results for the election, held Wednesday for 278 municipalities, including major metropolitan areas, could be released by the weekend.
The DA cut into ANC margins in major cities already controlled by the ruling party and received a growing show of support in Cape Town, the only major DA-controlled metro.
ANC support rates look poised to drop in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, indicating increasing strength for the DA outside of its Cape Town base.
Despite the DA gains, analysts said it may take decades before an opposition party has a chance of taking over from the ANC, which still commands enormous respect and wins votes for its role in ending apartheid.
"Only 8 percent of registered voters are white. Do the simple maths, white people are not the only ones who voted for the DA," DA leader Helen Zille said in an interview on Talk Radio 702.
Despite investing billions of dollars in infrastructure, the ANC-led government has struggled to address apartheid-era problems, with nearly half the population living in poverty.
Reports of senior officials using political positions and connections in the ruling party to amass personal wealth could have contributed to the drop in support.
"The ruling party has lost ground. They are acknowledging delivery failures, internal conflicts and corruption," said independent political analyst Nic Borain.
"Implicitly, the ANC knows this election will have an effect, the ruling party must clean up its act."
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said on Radio 702: "There is no party that won't be concerned if it drops even one point. Wait until the final result is out."
(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Marius Bosch and Janet Lawrence)