South African capital joins ranks of metros run by opposition

August 19, 2016 12:01 PM EDT

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's main opposition party on Friday took control of the local government in the nation's capital, electing a mayor in a district the ruling party has held since the end of apartheid 22 years ago.

Winning Tshwane, the municipality that includes the capital, Pretoria, and Nelson Mandela Bay, which includes manufacturing hub Port Elizabeth, in the Aug. 3 local elections, marks a turning point for the Democratic Alliance.

The DA already held Cape Town, where parliament is situated. And it is vying with the ruling African National Congress to form a coalition in Johannesburg, the country's financial center .

"This is not just any city, but our capital," said the new mayor, Solly Msimanga, a black member of the mostly white DA.

Msimanga was elected unopposed after the ANC declined to put forward a candidate. The ANC came second in the Tshwane municipal election.

Although the DA did not win an outright majority in Tshwane, it formed a minority government with the support of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters, which came third third in Tshwane, and smaller parties.

The EFF had said it would vote for the DA's choice of mayor had the office been contested. But it warned that it would not back the DA on every issue debated by the council, and would scrutinize budgets carefully.

The ANC has conceded that the elections were its worst since white-minority rule ended in 1994.

"It constitutes the lowest moment in our political life," the ANC's chairman in Tshwane, Kgosientso Ramokgopa, who is also the former mayor of the municipality, said on Thursday.

(Reporting by James Macharia, editing by Larry King)



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