South Africa


DA hold on in Thabazimbi Three-Horse Race

DA hold on in Thabazimbi Three-Horse Race
Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

The Democratic Alliance edged out a fast-rising Freedom Front Plus and the ANC in a closely contested by-election in the opposition controlled municipality of Thabazimbi. The IFP had a solid hold in a marginal ward in Mtubatuba, while the ANC continued to impress in the Eastern Cape.


Ward 2 (Thabazimbi Rooiberg) in Thabazimbi DA 34% (57%) FF+ 28% (7%) ANC 27% (27%) EFF 7% (7%) TRA 4% (3%)

Ward 2 draws most of its voters from the town of Thabazimbi and the mining town of Rooiberg. The former is where most of the DA and the FF+ voters, are while the latter is the base for the ANC in the ward. The ward also includes Sekelbos, which is next to the Marakele National Park, and a voting station at the Zimthabi holiday resort.

Thabazimbi is one of two Limpopo municipalities where the ANC failed to win an outright majority and ended up in opposition. The municipality is governed by the Thabazimbi Residents Association (TRA), the DA, and the FF+. It enjoys outside support from the EFF.

In 2016, the DA won comfortably here, but in 2019 it was neck and neck between the DA, the ANC and the FF+. On the provincial ballot, the DA got 82 more votes than the ANC, and 160 more votes than the FF. The FF+’s surge in 2019 was clear to observe at the largest voting station in the ward at the Frikkie Meyer School in Thabazimbi. In 2016, the DA got 693 more votes than the FF+, but in 2019 they only got 40 more votes than the FF+. What was key for the DA holding on to the seat was that got just over 100 more votes than the FF+ at Frikkie Meyer school in the by-election.

The FF+ ended up winning three of the seven voting districts, as they finished ahead of the pack in Spitskop, Sekelbos and a smaller voting station in Rooiberg. They tied with the DA for first place at Zimthabi. The party had great returns in the smaller voting stations on the outskirts of Thabazimbi, and between Thabazimbi and Rooiberg.

While turn-out was highest in the ward in the ANC stronghold of the Rooiberg Community Hall-80%, considerably higher than the 48% poll for the ward. The ANC vote share fell dramatically from May 2019 to the by-election. It went from 83% to 59%, as the party lost ground to the EFF which got 20% of the vote, up from 10% in May, the TRA got 12% and the DA got 9% up from 5% in May.

This was a close shave for the DA, but what is different from this by-election result to the DA ward losses in Stilfontein, Miederpark Potchefstroom, and Bethal was that the DA vote share increased slightly from May to November, whereas in the over three wards, their percentage vote share fell between May and the respective by-election dates.

Poll 48% (70%).


Ward 4 (Dukuduku St. Lucia) in Mtubatuba IFP 48% (47%) ANC 28% (34%) DA 22% (13%) EFF 1% (3%)

Ward 4 comprises of the town of St. Lucia and the settlement of Dukuduku near the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The principal town in the municipality is Mtubatuba.

The ANC won this ward in 2016 but lost it to the IFP in a 2018 by-election. The IFP’s base in the ward is around the Vezobala High School, while the ANC historically do best around the Khipinkunzi School. The DA’s stronghold is the St. Lucia part of the ward.

The IFP retained the ward by comfortably winning at the Vezobala High School voting district. They beat the ANC by over 200 votes there and the ANC was not able to catch up to the IFP. On the provincial ballot in the May elections, the IFP won at Khipinkunzi School, but the ANC won back the district in the by-election, beating the IFP by 19 votes.

The DA won by a long margin in St. Lucia to boost their performance in the by-election, but they battled in the other two voting districts. The EFF will be disappointed with their showing, but at least they got more votes than the United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) candidate who did not get any votes.

This was an important hold for the IFP as they have 19 out of the 40 seats in the council, two more than the ANC. The IFP governs with the DA (2 seats) and the outside support of the EFF (1 seat). The African Independent Congress (AIC) has the remaining seat.

Turn-out 60% (66%)

Eastern Cape

Ward 20 (Nqamakwe Tanga) in Mnquma ANC 88% (69%) PAC 7% EFF 3% (5%) COPE 2%

The bulk of the ward is centred around Nqamakwe, the birthplace of Govan Mbeki. Nqamakwe is next to the regional R409 road which links the village with Butterworth. There is also a part of the ward by Tanga in Butterworth. Tanga is near the N2 between Butterworth and Mtatha. Butterworth is the principal town in Mnquma, and used to be part of the Transkei. Mnquma forms part of the Amathole District, an area where the ANC has churned out many impressive by-election results.

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) came second here in 2016 with 15% of the vote. They did not contest the by-election.

The ANC made impressive gains in the by-election, falling just short of 90% of the vote. The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) beat the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to second place. The PAC did this by coming very close to beating to the ANC at the Kotana school in Nqamakwe. In 9 of the other 10 voting districts, the ANC got 90% or more of the vote. The ANC will be delighted by this strong showing.

Turn-out 33% (56%)

Ward 13 (Ngceza Tsojana) in Intsika Yethu-ANC 90% (88%) EFF 7% (7%) UDM 3% (3%)

Ward 13 is a rural ward which lies between Tsomo and Cofimvaba next to the R61 road linking Cofimvaba with Tsomo and Ngcobo. The ward is sparsely populated and has 11 voting stations. It is in the former Transkei, and is part of the Chris Hani District.

The ANC will be happy with the minor gains made in the by-election as their challenges could not improve on their 2016 returns. The ANC got 99% of the vote in two voting districts, north-west of Tsomo. The ANC continues to reign supreme in Intsika Yethu.

Turn-out 35% (55%)

Ward 11 (University of Fort Hare Alice) in Raymond Mhlaba ANC 78% (67% PR*) EFF 22% (10% PR)

The ward is centred in and around the University of Fort Hare in Alice. Raymond Mhlaba is in the Amathole District. It must be noted that the academic year has ended and a low turn-out would be expected for the by-election. The turn-out was remarkably low. Only 6% of registered voters showed up to vote, which was 4% points lower than the turn-out in the by-election at Rhodes University in Makana in August when 10% of registered voters showed up there. Only 1% of voters at the University of Fort Hare voting district cast their vote.

It was expected for both the ANC and the EFF to increase their percentage vote share as they were the only two parties on the ballot.

Turn-out 6% (37%)

There are four by-elections left for 2019. Next week, the ANC will need to fend off the IFP in a super marginal seat in Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal, while the DA will defend a marginal seat in Knysna in the Western Cape. The ANC will defend safe seats in Umzumbe in KwaZulu-Natal, and in Ndlambe in the Eastern Cape. DM

The proportional representation (PR) ballot result from the previous election gets used when it is a better indicator of support for a party in the ward. This is used here as the EFF only contested on the PR ballot in 2016.


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