South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal by-elections: Safe seats in some areas, high stakes in others

By Wayne Sussman 6 April 2018

Wednesday was the fourth round of by-elections since Cyril Ramaphosa became president of the African National Congress (ANC) and the President of South Africa. This was the first foray for a Ramaphosa-led ANC into KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) where all the by-elections for Wednesday were located. All of the wards being defended belonged to the ANC. By WAYNE SUSSMAN.

The by-elections had a reasonable spread across the vast terrain of the province. These included the ANC stronghold of UMdoni which sits on the South Coast in the Ugu district of the province, Mkhambathini which sits between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in the uMgungundlovu district of the province and Jozini which is bordered by Swaziland and Mozambique in the Umkhanyakude region in the northern part of the province.

The stakes were high in the Jozini by-election. It was a marginal ward and victory for the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) could impact on the governing composition of the municipality. The Democratic Alliance (DA) were competitive in the Mkhambathini ward, while the UMdoni ward was safe for the ANC.

Ward 16 in UMdoni (Amahlongwa Amandawe near Umkomaas) ANC 60% (74%) IFP 35% (16%) EFF 5% (3%)

While the ANC had decreasing returns in the major metros of South Africa in 2016, this region is one where support for the ANC remained rock solid. Southern KZN was Jacob Zuma’s firewall. Little attention was paid to this by election as this is an ANC stronghold. This is a rural ward which sits inland near the town of Umkomaas on the South Coast.

While the ANC’s returns fell by 14% points, the big surprise was the surge by the IFP. They have struggled in the Ugu District and for them to more than double their percentage support in the ward would be a huge boost for the party. While the ANC continued to get above 80% in the Amandawe voting district, the returns were less prosperous from the voting districts situated in Amahlongwa. At the Amahlongwa Methodist Church, the support for the ANC fell from 71% to 58%, at the Kwahluzingqondo High School voting station, their returns went from 66% to 47%, holding off the IFP by eight votes.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) made up the numbers in this by election with a slight increase in support. Turn-out was 35%.

Ward 3 in Mkhambathini (Camperdown Umlaas Road) ANC 55% (56%) DA 33% (34%) IFP 5% (4%) EFF 5% (2%)

This is a region where the ANC increased its returns in the 2016 local government elections. The ward contested on Wednesday included the town of Camperdown and voting districts sitting near to the Umlaas Road (R603), the R103 and the N3. Mkhambathini is the municipality which lies between eThekwini (Durban) and Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg).

The ANC will be satisfied with this hold. They had the same percentage point margin of victory over the DA as 2016, and while the IFP and the EFF might have recorded percentage growth in the ward they were a long way off. While the ANC had decreasing returns in five out of the seven voting districts they were able to almost match their 2016 percentage returns by taking the Vans Hotel voting district off the DA and getting over 85% of the vote at the Sethabe School, a rural voting district.

This was the only ward the DA contested on Wednesday, and their results were a mixed bag. They lost the Vans Hotel voting district to the ANC, but won the rural Nobhala School voting district off the ANC and came close to doubling their percentage support here. The DA will be disappointed about the result at Vans Hotel, because not only did they lose the district which turned out the second most amount of voters in the ward in 2016, the turn-out was also very low here. Only 28% of the voters registered in this district turned up. The DA will also be concerned by the low turnout of voters in the largest voting district of the ward in Camperdown. This remained a DA voting district on Wednesday, but turn-out was just over 30%.

Ward 2 in Jozini (Ubombo St. Alexis) IFP 58% (44%) ANC 34% (52%) NFP 4% EFF 2% (3%)

This municipality has had its fair share of governance challenges. The council was split 20/20 after the 2016 elections with the IFP getting 18 seats, supported by the one seat of the DA and the one seat of the EFF. The ANC was the largest party with 19 seats, and worked with an Independent councillor who had one seat. The council battled to elect leadership. There were numerous aborted attempts and ultimately, an ANC councillor, or the Independent went rogue and broke the deadlock by voting for an IFP mayor and an IFP speaker, while the Independent councillor allied to the ANC came in as deputy mayor. The stakes were high in Jozini. If the IFP prevailed here, the IFP-DA-EFF voting bloc would have 21 seats, while the ANC and Independent Alliance would fall to 19.

In 2016 the ANC won three voting districts in Ward 2, while the IFP won in two voting districts and the two parties tied in one voting district. On Wednesday, the IFP won five out of the six voting districts, and the two parties tied at one voting district. At the ANC stronghold of St. Alexis Primary School, the ANC went from a 150 vote win in 2016 to losing the district to the IFP on Wednesday.

The ANC and the IFP tied at the Ntsinde High School voting district in 2016. On Wednesday the IFP got 130 votes and the received ANC 41 votes there. At the Ophande Primary School, the ANC won by 68 votes in 2016 and on Wednesday, the IFP won there by 223 votes. The IFP’s percentage vote share only went down in one of the six voting districts – Majozini Primary School, but the IFP still won it by 62 votes.

This was a big win for the IFP. They now have the opportunity to take over the deputy mayor position as well and bring more stability to the municipality. Turnout was a high 59%. Jozini was the first by election setback for the ANC since Cyril Ramaphosa became party president and president of South Africa.

The ANC will be concerned by the results in Jozini and UMdoni and will have to pull out all the stops to defend a super marginal Mtubatuba ward in May. The ANC will be satisfied with their returns in Mkhambathini. It was a stellar night for the IFP. They now have the largest seat allocation in Jozini, and at the same time, beat the ANC by 600 votes in a ward held by the ANC. They also had impressive returns in UMdoni in a part of the province where they have struggled.

The DA might have won a rural voting district off the ANC in Mkhambathini but lost a voting district to the ANC and did not do enough to turn their supporters out in Camperdown. Their percentage returns were essentially the same as 2016.

The EFF’s percentage share of the vote increased in two of the three by elections, but they were hardly impactful. This remains a difficult province for the red berets. The National Freedom Party (NFP) were far behind the ANC in Jozini, getting just over 100 votes. They have do a lot to turn-around their fortunes, or else they risk collapse in 2019.

There will be two by elections next week. Both are relatively competitive seats. These are a DA-held seat in Kou-Kamma in the Eastern Cape and an ANC held seat in Mogalakwena in Limpopo. The Mogalakwena by election will be the first of 2018 where the EFF will come into that election with a significant base of support (25%). DM

Photo: A voter walks into a polling station set up by the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to cast his vote in Alexandra, Johannesburg, 07 May 2014. EPA/CORNELL TUKIRI

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