South Africa

March municipal by-elections: little change to the status quo

By Paul Berkowitz 7 March 2013

Six wards held by-elections on Wednesday across six provinces. Half of the wards were ANC incumbencies, the other half were held by the DA. All of the wards were considered safe for the incumbents and were duly retained by them on the day. By PAUL BERKOWITZ.

Not much was expected to happen in Wednesday’s by-elections, with every incumbent party enjoying at least 60% of the vote in their wards. There was little change in the voting shares for each party, although the DA did raise half an eyebrow in the Northern Cape ward, where a slightly lower turnout for the ANC might have seen a closer contest for the seat.

In Gauteng, ward 28 in Merafong City (Carletonville) was contested by the ANC and the DA, following the resignation of the DA councillor. The DA had won the ward with 63% of the vote to the ANC’s 32% in 2011, and the party increased its majority in the by-election by taking 67% of the vote. Turnout fell from 58% to 45%.

In KwaZulu-Natal, ward 7 of Vulamehlo (Dududu) was contested following the death of the ANC councillor. The ANC won the ward comfortably in 2011 with 72% of the vote (NFP 22%, IFP 5%). The party increased its majority to 79% in the by-elections, while voter turnout slipped from 64% to 53%.

In Limpopo, in ward 6 of Lephalale (Ellisras) the ANC, APC and Cope contested a by-election following the death of the ANC councillor. The ANC retained the seat but its support slipped from 95% to 86% while Cope saw its share of the vote rise from 3% in 2011 to 12% on Wednesday. Turnout almost halved, falling from 57% to 29% on Wednesday.

In Mpumalanga, ward 34 of Emalahleni (Witbank) was contested by the DA and the FF+ following the resignation of the DA councillor. The ANC decided not to field a candidate, which is highly unusual – it is only the third ward (out of 139) since the 2011 elections that the party has declined to contest. The ANC won a solid 26% of the vote in 2011 compared to the DA’s 72%.

With the ANC out of the running, the DA steamrolled ahead and retained the seat with 97% of the vote. The FF+ did increase its share of the vote to 3% in a reduced poll (turnout fell from 68% in 2011 to 25%) but the party is unlikely to read too much into this result.

In the Northern Cape, in ward 4 of Magareng (Warrenton) the ANC defended a ward that was vacated upon the death of its councillor. The ANC won the ward in 2011 with 62% of the vote (DA 27%, Cope 10%). The ANC retained the seat with 58% of the poll, while the DA increased its share of the vote to 39% in an election where 56% of all eligible voters turned out on the day, down slightly from the 64% poll of the 2011 elections.

The gap between the two parties narrowed from 678 votes in 2011 to just 331 votes on Wednesday, the DA’s support growing by 130 votes while the ANC’s slipped by just over 200 votes.

In the Western Cape, in ward 22 of Stellenbosch, the resignation of the DA councillor triggered the by-election, which was contested by the ANC, DA and Stellenbosch Civic Association. The DA won the ward with 96% of the vote in 2011 and was obviously comfortable enough with the strength of its incumbency to laugh off accusations of Nazism by the Stellenbosch Civic Association.

Apparently such defamatory statements can be chalked up to hilarity and hi-jinx when the race is so clearly one-sided. The DA retained the seat with 99% of the vote in a by-election where the turnout halved from 74% of all eligible voters in 2011 to just 37% of all voters on Wednesday.

There’s very little to read into this round of by-elections. The ANC slipped a few notches in most of the polls, with small boosts in Merafong City and Vulamehlo. The DA consolidated its support in its incumbencies and inched forward in the other wards, mostly by absorbing the votes of smaller parties that did not contest the by-elections.

Voters in March were seemingly unaffected by the announcement of a new political entity (Agang), the announcement of the national Budget or any other news, good or bad, in the country. The DA may have done enough campaigning to keep voter turnout numbers healthy in ANC-controlled wards, but the party isn’t doing nearly enough if it wants to increase its support in these wards. DM

Photo by Reuters

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