South Africa

Municipal by-elections, supplement: The ANC gets punished in Carolina

By Paul Berkowitz 23 May 2013

The result in ward 7 of Albert Luthuli (Eleukwatini/Carolina) was only confirmed on Thursday morning. Far from being the slam-dunk retention that we thought it would be, the ANC lost the ward to the IFP in a shocking upset. By PAUL BERKOWITZ.

The IFP, who had not even fielded a candidate in 2011, took 53% of the vote to the ANC’s 46% – or just 393 votes versus 343 votes. (The COPE candidate received six votes.)

How did the ANC come to see the halving of their vote in the ward, and its subsequent loss? Apparently, the informal settlement of Mayflower helped the IFP carry the vote. This may or may not point to service delivery unhappiness.

While this takes some of the shine off the ANC’s election sucess in the last 7 days, the party will still be very happy with the gaining of the Northern Cape municipality. The ANC’s majority in Albert Luthuli has been whittled down ever so slightly from 44 to 43 seats in the 49-seat council.

What this upset does do is add to the irregularities and oddities of this month’s by-elections. The ANC and the DA would both do well to sit down and reevaluate their support in key areas.

The DA needs to look at its marginal areas in rural Western Cape and Northern Cape. It has lost a number of key municipalities here in the last two years, and has been troubled in others.

Yes, there is a political war going on and the ANC is giving the party no quarter. Some councillors, particularly in smaller municipalities where the balance of power hinges on one or two council seats, are available to the highest bidder. All of this is true, and none of it is particularly useful at winning elections.

The ANC has lost a number of wards over the last two years, mostly to the DA but in recent months the losses have been surprising for two reasons: where they are happening and to which parties the ANC has been ceding power.

The last three wards losses by the ANC all happened in the last six months. Two wards were won by the IFP and one was won by an independent. One was in Rustenburg, right next door to Marikana. One was in Nkandla. The most recent has been in an ANC stronghold in Mpumalanga.

Three data points aren’t much of a trend. It’s barely half a kidney of the metaphorical bird we analysts would use for our soothsaying. Maybe the ANC is at risk of taking certain voting blocs for granted and maybe it isn’t. Maybe these losses are isolated protest votes, maybe they are part of a growing trend.

Whatever the reasons, there seems to be more craziness, more opportunity (and opportunism), and more uncertainty in the electoral process. It is unlikely to abate before next year’s elections. DM

Read more:

  • ‘Concordia is volgende slagveld’, Andre Botha, Volksblad.

Photo by Reuters.

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