The losses suffered by the African National Congress (ANC) during the recent municipal elections were self-inflicted, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said on Tuesday.

“The losses we have suffered are not because any other party is better than the ANC. The losses and set-backs suffered in these elections are self-inflicted,” Mthembu said as he introduced an urgent debate on the local government elections in the National Assembly.

“The message sent to us by our people by not voting in their majority and including many who abstained and decided to stay at home has been loud and clear and we have heard it. We will definitely change our behaviour and posture, including that of being perceived as being aloof, inward-looking, self-serving and arrogant.”

Mthembu said while the ANC had won over 78 percent of the wards in the country, he bemoaned the fact that key metros were lost to a coalition of opposition parties. The Tshwane metro in the country’s capital city Pretoria, the country’s economic hub Johannesburg, and the Nelson Mandela Bay metro in the Eastern Cape fell to a coalition of opposition parties, led by the Democratic Alliance.

“Undoubtedly, these metros are critical to the economy of the country as they control serious budgets,” said Mthembu.

“We are bleeding because even though we are democrats and revolutionaries and we accept the people’s verdict – we are not rocks. We have been affected by the losses we have suffered in these elections as human beings.”

Mthembu did not miss an opportunity to criticise the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who voted against the ANC in the major metros, ensuring the ANC could not rule there.

“Let us underscore the point that it is because we do not seek to govern at all costs, including by selling our souls to the devil, that we rejected and continue to reject the EFF’s call for the ANC to forsake its founding principles and fundamental policies and embrace EFF extremism, as a condition for governing the metros,” he said.

Looking ahead, Mthembu said he was confident the ruling party would stage a comeback in the next general and local government elections.

“We will be able to regain our losses in the national and provincial elections of 2019 and we can say without any fear of contradiction that come the local government elections of 2021, we will definitely reclaim the governance of all the metros and take them back from those who ganged up against us and decided to give their votes to the racist DA.”