South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, has suffered its worst electoral defeat since the end of apartheid, losing control over Pretoria, the country's administrative capital.

The Independent Electoral Commission confirmed that the Opposition Democratic Alliance had won 43 per cent to the ANC's 41 per cent.

The DA has run Cape Town, the legislative capital, since 2006, and also won the industrial city of Port Elizabeth at this election. It will seek to form a majority coalition in Tshwane, the municipality covering Pretoria, with the Economic Freedom Fighters, the radical party of Julius Malema, which won 11 per cent. DA leader Mmusi Maimane, a Soweto-born former preacher, said this year's local election would be "seen as a tipping point; the moment the ANC lost its foothold as a dominant party. Now begins the hard work of governing ... for the people of South Africa". In a warning to the EFF, which has called for mine and bank nationalisation and land seizures, he said the DA would not "seek power for power's sake".

Nelson Mandela's ANC swept to power in the first national election for all South Africans in 1994. But President Jacob Zuma is under intense pressure from within the ANC to step down after a series of corruption scandals.

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Political commentator Allister Sparks said the DA was "grabbing the gold nuggets of the economy" and would likely be able to argue in the 2019 national elections that it "already effectively runs the country".