The ruling African National Congress (ANC) suffered the worst electoral setback since the end of apartheid in 1994, analysts said on Friday.

It was generally agreed that in the local government elections, voters had punished the party for failure to address high unemployment, inequality and corruption.

According to early results, the ANC’s share of the vote fell to 54.4 percent, from 62 percent in the previous municipal elections, its worst showing since 1994.

The share of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) rose to 26.2 percent from 24 percent, and support for the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stood at 7.9 percent, only moderately above the 6.4 percent in the 2014 national election.

The ANC lost the strategic Nelson Mandela Bay metro, “home of the ANC”, to the main opposition Democratic Alliance.

Results also showed the ANC trailing behind the DA in Tshwane (Pretoria), the country’s executive capital.

This was an embarrassment to the ANC, said Daryl Glaser, head of political studies at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg.

He told Xinhua in an interview that the DA, perceived to be for whites, was “finding its way into African townships. It’s a nightmare come true for the ANC and (President) Jacob Zuma.”

Stanford Mahati, an expert in the African Centre for Migration and Society Studies at Witwatersrand University, supported Glaser’s assertion.

“Unless ANC takes a radical intervention which is pro-poor and addresses the economic fundamentals, the party will be found wanting in future elections,” he said.

He, however, noted that some of the issues dogging South Africa were beyond Zuma’s capacity, citing the slowdown of economic growth in all major emerging economies.

ANC’s chief whip, Jackson Mthembu seemed to concur with Mahati.

Mthembu confirmed that he was not impressed with his party’s performance and it was a “cause for concern.”

He said his party would do a postmortem to find out “what went wrong.”

The ANC’s poor performance in the local government elections, held on Wednesday, will impact the 2019 national elections, said Institute of Race Relations CEO, Frans Cronje.

“The results are devastating for the ANC and we expect that opposition parties will redouble their efforts to undermine the party on issues ranging from corruption to Jacob Zuma and SA’s sluggish economic performance,” Cronje told Xinhua.

“If the ANC cannot secure an economic turnaround ahead of 2019, let alone if SA slips into recession, then the race for 2019 will be extremely close,” he said.

As counting progressed on Friday, political parties were preparing to form coalitions in some municipalities.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said his party would control the city of Tshwane (Pretoria) by forming coalition with smaller parties.

Maimane said that his party was the biggest party in the city and would now go ahead and put together a coalition government.