South Africa's ruling African National Congress has lost some supporters' confidence and could totally lose them if it does not deal with discontent with President Jacob Zuma, an ANC official said on Sunday.
The ANC has been in damage control mode since the country's highest court ruled that Zuma failed to uphold the constitution by ignoring an order to repay some of the $16 million in state funds spent renovating his home.
The party, which came to power after toppling white apartheid rule in 1994, crushed an opposition bid to impeach Zuma last week but has faced rising calls, including from some of its veteran members, to remove him.
"It is not the Constitutional Court judgement that is the issue. The issue is the trust deficit that has developed, with people beginning to trust us less and less and less and less," ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Sunday.
Speaking at the anniversary of the 1993 killing of anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani, Mantashe defended the ANC's rejection of the impeachment drive against Zuma, saying to do otherwise would have served the opposition's agenda.
"But it doesn't absolve us from looking into our own behaviour. There must be change in our behaviour as a movement," he added. "If we don't change our behaviour, we become arrogant in dealing with our problems. We are going to pay the price."
Mantashe spoke as residents in poor townships vowed to boycott August local government elections out of anger that the ANC has done little to improve their lives, dashing the hopes that accompanied Nelson Mandela's inauguration as South Africa's first black president two decades ago.
Zuma's own presidency has been riddled with controversy. Most recently, his close ties with the wealthy Gupta family have come under scrutiny after the deputy finance minister said the Indian-born family had influenced the sudden firing of his former boss in December.
On Friday, Zuma's son Duduzane said he would sell his investments in a mining firm owned by the Guptas amid speculation the family is wielding undue political influence.
The City Press newspaper reported on Sunday that some Gupta family members had left South Africa for Dubai following their resignation from positions at some local companies after major banks dropped the firms as clients.
Representatives of the family's business interests declined to comment on the story.
"The Gupta family has no further comment at this time, and will not be detailing the individual movements of family members," a short statement said in response to Reuters questions.
"The onus is now on the business establishment and the banks to do the right thing."