South Africa


Tough night in Mpumalanga for the DA

File Photo: An Election Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections in Meyerton

The Democratic Alliance lost a ward to the African National Congress in Govan Mbeki (Bethel) and lost ground to the Freedom Front Plus in a safe seat in Thaba Chweu (Lydenburg) in the latest round of by-elections. The latest results continue to spell real trouble for the official opposition.


Ward 28 (Bethal, New Bethal East) in Govan Mbeki ANC 36% (40% PR*) VF+ 36% (7% PR) DA 26% (48% PR) EFF 2% (4% PR)

Bethal is potato country. It sits on the N17 national road. The ward has two distinct parts to it. The MD Coovadia school voting district includes the centre of the town and Milan Park. This is where the ANC runs up the numbers. While Marietjie Van Niekerk School is centred around New Bethal East which is a traditional DA stronghold.

The VF+ came very close to causing a sensational upset in Ward 28 by losing the ward by 6 votes to the ANC. Ironically, what cost the VF+ the win was a below par performance by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in a municipality where they exhibited major growth in a July by-election. In July, the EFF grew from 26% to 46% in the nearby Embalenhle township next to Secunda. Had the EFF eaten into ANC support on Wednesday night, the VF+ might well have had a ward councillor in Mpumalanga.

The DA finished a distant third in a ward they carried in 2016. They were well beaten in New Bethal East. In 2016 they received 83% of the proportional representation (PR) vote in New Bethal East; this plummeted to 36% on Wednesday night. When one compares the 2016 PR ballot, with the by-election result, the VF+’s percentage vote share on the PR ballot increased fivefold from 12% to 60%. This is staggering growth for the party. The party fielded a well-known community activist called Michelle Rademeyer, who is known for her work on water issues.

The ANC was able to show small growth in Milan Park, growing from 80% on the 2016 PR ballot, to 81% in the by-election. The EFF fell from 9% of the PR ballot to 5% in the by-election. That meagre growth for the ANC and poor return for the EFF proved significant.

Turnout was higher in New Bethal East (38%) than in Milan Park (29%), but because the Milan Park voting district was less competitive this would not deny the ANC the ward pickup.

The road back for the DA in Ward 28 will be tough. Voters in New Bethal East might be weary of casting their vote for a party which on the balance of the by-election result split the vote in New Bethal East and helped the ANC win the ward.

For the ANC the result is most encouraging. In July they came close to losing a safe seat to the EFF in Govan Mbeki, but after this by-election they have a new ward councillor and more outright control of the municipality.

Turnout 34% (61%)

The new council composition is ANC 37 (36) DA 14 (15) EFF 9 VF+ 2 Sakhisizwe Progressive Movement 1 –Total 63

Ward 12 (Lydenburg) in Thaba Chweu DA 48% (79%) VF+ 33% (8%) ANC 18% (10%) EFF 1% (2%)

Lydenburg sits at the foot of the Long Tom Pass. The town serves the mines and farms near it. Its neighbouring towns include Burgersfort, Sabie and Dullstroom.

Ward 12 was a safe DA seat. The VF+ gave the DA a fright in the by-election as they showed significant growth, while the ANC finished third with a result which will satisfy the party as they almost doubled their percentage support.

When one looks at the voting district results of the 2019 provincial elections in this ward, it is clear that the DA has lost more ground to the VF+ since the May elections. In May, the VF+ received 22% of the vote and the DA got 55% and 60% respectively in the two districts. The shift away from the DA in this area increased in the by-election. The VF+’s percentage vote share in the two voting districts was 33%, while the DA’s fell to 47% and 50%.

While the DA received 209 votes more than the VF+, the VF+ were able to break the DA’s stranglehold on the ward. The VF+ will fancy their chances when this ward is contested in the 2021 local government elections.

Turnout 33% (68%)


Ward 13 (Mmakotse Hwelereng) in Lepele-Nkumpi ANC 61% (56% ward, 66% PR) EFF 35% (35% ward, 29% PR) Independent-Maruma 4%

Ward 13 is comprised of villages near Lebowakgomo. The biggest area is centred on Mmakotse. Mmakotse, Hwelereng and Ga-Ledwaba are on the R518 road which links Zebedelia with Lebowakgomo. The smallest district is around Seponapudi village which is next to the R579 road which connects Lebowakgomo with Chuenespoort.

There was a big anomaly in the 2016 local government elections when one looks at the ward result at Ga-Ledwaba Tribal Hall. On the ward ballot, the ANC got 47% of the vote compared to the EFF’s 43%, while on the PR ballot, the ANC got 73% of the vote, compared to the EFF’s 23%. This is one of the reasons why both the previous ward and PR results are used as a comparison. If one uses the ward result this was a solid result for the ANC, if one uses the PR result it was a solid result for the EFF.

The ANC had narrow wins in Hwelereng and Ga-Ledwaba. They got 51% of the vote in Hwelereng, compared to the EFF’s 47%, while in Ga-Ledwaba, the ANC got 49%, with the EFF falling just short, on 47%. The result in Ga-Ledwaba was largely similar to the ward result in 2016, while the ANC’s percentage vote share in Hwelereng fell from 67-68% to 51%, and the EFF’s percentage vote share in Hwelereng rose from 29-30% to 47%.

The ANC ran up the numbers in the largest voting district-Mmakotse. They got 79% of the vote here, up from 59-62% in 2016, while the EFF’s percentage vote share fell from 27-31% to 16%. Percentage turnout in Mmakotse was lower than all the other districts.

In Seponapudi, the smallest district in the ward, the ANC’s percentage vote share fell slightly, with the EFF showing a small increase.

Turnout 48% (60%)

The next round of by-elections will be on 23 October. Six wards will be contested. The two wards to watch will be Ward 92 (Germiston Highway Gardens) in Ekurhuleni, a safe DA seat, and a competitive ANC seat – Ward 34 (Hofmeyr Luxolweni) in Enoch Mgijima in the Eastern Cape. DM

The proportional representation (PR) result gets used when it is a better indicator of party support in the ward.