South Africa

South Africa

February by-elections: the ANC machine picks up steam

February by-elections: the ANC machine picks up steam

There were ten by-elections on Wednesday and it was unambiguously the ANC’s day. The party won two wards (one DA, one independent) and successfully defended a marginal ward from the DA’s advances. By PAUL BERKOWITZ and WAYNE SUSSMAN.

Curtain-raiser: the one by-election that took place last week

On Wednesday 12 February there was one by-election, in which the ANC successfully defended ward 4 in Metsimaholo (Sasolburg). The party won the seat in 2011 with 84% of the vote to the DA’s 16%. On Wednesday the party increased its share of the vote to 90% (DA 9%, APC 1%).

The ANC squeezes the DA and the Minority Front (MF) in Durban

The DA defended two wards in the Ethekwini metro on Wednesday. Both are wards in Phoenix, Durban where the MF won a sizable share of the vote in 2011, but the party has been on a continuous slide downwards since the passing of its former leader, Amichand Rajbansi, in December 2011. Both of the erstwhile DA councillors resigned from the party in late-2013 to join the ANC, thereby triggering by-elections.

In ward 48, Shunmugam Ramsamy “Roy” Moodley won the seat for the DA in 2011 with 53% of the vote to the MF’s 26% and the ANC’s 15%. He retained his seat wearing ANC colours on Wednesday with 44% of the vote to the DA’s 42% and the MF’s 12%. Voter turnout fell from 57% to 36% and only 108 votes separated the ANC and DA.

The DA was successful in defending ward 49 after its councillor, Ronnie Veeran, left to join the ANC. He won the ward in 2011 with 57% of the vote (MF 30%, ANC 8%) but could not retain it under ANC colours on Wednesday. The DA received 51% of the vote (ANC 30%, MF 15%).

There are a couple of observations to be made. The first is that ‘crossing the floor’ as a ward councillor is a bit of a crapshoot. Mr Veeran was a more high-profile defection than Mr Moodley, and yet the former lost his seat while the latter retained his.

Ward elections are the only time that South Africans have to directly choose a representative, so you would expect (or even hope) that there is some personality effect at play. In general, it does seem that party loyalty is a stronger force than individual charisma.

The second observation is that the MF is on a hiding to nothing. The party’s support is limited to a handful of wards in Ethekwini and it lost one of these to the DA in November 2013. Its support in the two wards took a beating on Wednesday.

The DA holds the line in three other wards

The DA may have lost possession in Phoenix but its defence across the rest of the country was solid.

Ward 12 in Hibiscus Coast (Port Shepstone) is a marginal ward for the DA and always has been. The party won in 2011 with 54% of the vote (ANC 41%) but only won one of the four voting districts in the ward. Following the death of its councillor, Mike Henderson, the DA also faced a fresh challenge from an independent candidate, Alex Skene.

The party ended up retaining the seat with 55% of the vote (ANC 32%, independent 12%). Mr Skene ended up taking votes from the ANC rather than from the DA. In addition, the DA won a voting district from the ANC.

In Mpumalanga, in ward 12 of Thaba Chweu (Lydenburg) the DA easily defended a very safe ward (2011 results were DA 75%, ANC 19%, FF+ 6%). The former ward councillor, Sonja Boshoff, resigned her position to stand for the provincial legislature.

The DA retained the ward with 88% of the vote to the ANC’s 12%. Despite a puzzling increase in registered voters of over 50% since 2011 (from fewer than 800 to about 1,200) voter turnout numbers actually dropped.

Finally, the DA retained ward 43 in the Cape Town metro. The party won the seat with 84% of the vote in 2011 (ANC 7%, ACDP 3%) fighting off another 23 parties in the process. The former councillor, Irma Jackson, was expelled for misappropriation of public funds.

On Wednesday there were only eight candidates fighting the DA for the ward. They ended up with a bigger share of the vote, proving perhaps that voters prefer less choice at the polls.The DA retained the seat with 80% of the vote (independent 8%, ANC 5%, Al Jama-ah 3%) on Wednesday.

The ANC’s successful day at the races

The ANC successfully defended four wards on Wednesday. Most of them were safe but one marginal ward in the Northern Cape could have tipped the balance of power in the municipality. On top of this it won two wards, one from the DA in Ethekwini and another from an independent candidate in the Western Cape.

In Limpopo, the party defended ward 9 in Lephalale (Ellisras). The ANC received 88% of the vote in 2011 (PAC 4%, COPE 3%). This share of the vote increased to 94% on Wednesday as did COPE’s share of the vote (6%) as the only challenger.

In the North-West, in ward 21 of Greater Taung (Reivilo) the ANC won with 95% in 2011 (DA 5%). On Wednesday the party retained the seat with just 71% of the vote. The UCDP won the other 29% of the vote. It’s unclear whether the fall in ANC support is due to a strong opposition candidate or unhappiness with the ANC or its candidate.

In the Northern Cape the ANC successfully defended a marginal ward that could have cost the party control of the municipality. Ward 2 of Kgatelopele (Danielskuil) was won by the ANC in 2011 with 57% of the vote to the DA’s 30% and COPE’s 12%. The ANC holds 5 seats in the eight-seat council, COPE holds 2 seats and the DA 1.

If the ANC had lost the ward then the council could have been hung at four seats apiece for the party and the opposition coalition. The party only won 51% of the vote to the DA’s 49%, with 20 votes separating the two parties (489 to 469). Turnout remained high in the by-election, falling from 63% to a respectable 54% on Wednesday.

In Ward 35 of the City of Cape Town the ANC won 88% of the vote in 2011 (DA 8%, COPE 2%). The ward councillor, Thobile Gqola, was expelled from council for selling RDP houses. The ANC retained the ward with 79% of the vote, the DA doubled its share to 16% and an independent took the rest.

The ward is in the Crossroads / Philippi part of the metro and both the ANC and DA will spin this story in different directions. The ANC will hold up this victory as evidence that the DA still has low support in black areas and the DA will claim that it has doubled its support in the ward. Voter turnout, meanwhile, fell from 59% to 32%.

Also in the Western Cape, the ANC won ward 9 in Saldanha Bay (West Coast Peninsula) from an independent councillor who was expelled from council for continued absenteeism. Sipho Masina won the ward with 49% in 2011 (ANC 38%, DA 10%). However, the ANC won 75% of the PR vote in 2011 (DA 17%).

With only the ANC and DA fielding candidates on Wednesday, an ANC victory was a smart bet. The party won 84% of the votes to the DA’s 16%, pretty much in line with the 2011 PR vote. Voter turnout fell from 59% to 53%.

The DA still controls Saldanha Bay by a comfortable majority, but the ANC is making strides in the West Coast district of the Western Cape. This is the second ward in the district that it’s won in as many months .


The ANC has had a great year at the polls so far. It’s won three wards and only lost two (in safe Mbhashe – see last month’s analysis). It’s managed to defend the wards that need defending and has won the important wards.

The DA has lost two wards so far. It has had a shot at getting a hand on power in Kgatelopele but couldn’t topple the ANC in a crucial ward. The party is finding it hard to build momentum in these by-elections.

There should only be another by-election date between now and May 7, which might come as a relief to the DA. After the May elections we’ll be able to see whether all the national and provincial campaigning has paid off for the various parties. DM

Photo: A local resident with a baby is seen walking past a poster in the Kwanyamazane township advertising the launch of the ANC’s 2014 national elections manifesto in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, Wednesday, 8 January 2014.The manifesto is expected to be unveiled on Friday in Nelspruit and officially launched at a rally at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday. Picture: SAPA stringer



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