South African President Cyril Ramaphosa could see the ANC lose its outright majority in the coming elections. / Photo: AA

South Africa's economy contracted 0.2% in the third quarter following six months of slow growth, spelling trouble for the government ahead of elections next year.

Agriculture, manufacturing and construction were "the biggest drags" on gross domestic product in Africa's most industrialised country from July to September, said the national statistics agency StatsSA.

South Africa is heading towards general elections in 2024 amid high unemployment and widespread disillusionment with the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

The economy has been slumbering for several years and the latest contraction follows GDP increases of 0.4% and 0.5% in the first two quarters that had raised hopes the nation could weather through its many troubles.

Energy crisis

South Africa has been battered by a prolonged energy crisis resulting in daily power blackouts of up to 12 hours a day.

Troubles at state-owned rail and ports firm Transnet, hobbled by graft scandals, theft and maintenance issues, have further hampered economic activity.

StatsSA said the agriculture industry saw the sharpest fall in the third quarter, with output dropping 9.6%.

The sector faced "several headwinds" including a major bird flu outbreak and floods in the southern province of Western Cape, the agency said.

ANC majority

Weaker demand saw manufacturing production decline by 1.3%, while mining production was down 1.1%, it added.

In power since 1994, polls have suggested that the ANC's vote share could fall below 50% for the first time next year.

"South Africa cannot endure another ANC term," the Democratic Alliance, the leading opposition party, commented on the latest GDP figures which it said were the "direct res ult of failed ANC policy".

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