South Africa


Eastern Cape Preview: ANC looks set to retain 18 of 19 seats

Illustrative image | sources: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius| Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images |

The ANC will be defending all 19 seats in the Eastern Cape, with five key constituencies to watch.

On Wednesday, 11 November,  107 seats will be contested in by-elections in all nine provinces. This is the third article of a series in the build-up.


The Eastern Cape government’s handling of Covid-19 and the poor state of its public hospitals were put under the national and international media spotlight in July. There were interventions from the national government, outrage from the public and scorn on social media. Pundits mused about the impact this could have on Eastern Cape voters and the ruling African National Congress (ANC). In the 2019 elections the ANC’s percentage vote share fell by a scant 1%, from 70% to 69%. The party lost only one seat, while Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM) lost half its seats in the province, falling from four seats to two.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) remained the official opposition but was unable to grow, plateauing on 16% of the vote. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) increased its strength in the province, climbing from two seats to five. 

The Congress of the People (COPE), the former official opposition in the province and the Matatiele-focused African Independent Congress (AIC) lost their seats in the legislature and were replaced by the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and the Freedom Front + (FF+), with both parties winning a single seat. 

The FF+ was unable to win any seats in the province in the 2016 local government elections, yet three years later it edged out COPE, the AIC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). 

Only one seat changed hands in the Eastern Cape between 2019 and when the pandemic put a stop to by-elections in early 2020. That was when the ANC took a seat off the DA in Makana (Rhodes University) in a by-election with a pitiful turnout.

There are 19 by-elections this time, with 18 of the 19 races seemingly safe for the ANC. The ANC is defending all 19 seats.

Joe Gqabi District 

Walter Sisulu

  1. Ward 6 (Dukathole area 13 Aliwal North): ANC 85%, EFF 7%, MCA 5% 
  2. Ward 7 (Dukathole Block F Aliwal North) in Walter Sisulu: ANC 81%, EFF 9%, MCA 5% 
  3. Ward 8 (Dukathole Block H Aliwal North): ANC 66%, MCA 19%, EFF 11% 
  4. Ward 11 (Jamestown Aliwal North): ANC 56%, DA 34%, MCA 6%, EFF 4%  

Walter Sisulu municipality borders the Free State. It includes the towns of Aliwal North, Burgersdorp and Jamestown. This is one of the last places where the DA tasted by-election success by winning a seat off the ANC in Burgersdorp in 2018.

The ANC is defending four seats and if the ANC loses three of the four seats the council will be hung, and if it loses all four seats it will lose control. All four by-elections are because of the ANC ward councillors being expelled by Xolile Nqatha, the Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, for supporting an illegal land invasion.  Three of the by-elections are centred around Dukathole, just west of Aliwal North – wards 6, 7 and 8. Dukathole is where the ANC has traditionally run up the numbers in the municipality. In 2016, the Maletswai Civic Association (MCA) made inroads, especially in Ward 8, where it got 19% of the vote. The EFF and the MCA will go up against the ANC in wards 6, 7 and 8. 

Ward 11 was the most competitive of the four seats in 2016 and is the ward the ANC will be most concerned about in Walter Sisulu. The ward has three distinct parts. The bulk of the votes are likely to be cast in Jamestown. This is where the ANC won the ward in 2016, ending up with 612 more votes than the DA in the two voting districts in the town. The DA got 104 more votes than the ANC in Aliwal North, the second most populous component of the ward. There are five other voting districts in the ward which have a low percentage of voters scattered along the farms between Aliwal North and Jamestown. Here, the DA got 50 more votes than the ANC in 2019. 

For the ANC, the election will be won or lost in Jamestown. The DA will want to increase its margin of victory on the farms and especially in Aliwal North. 

Independent candidate Xolani “Killer” Sikade hails from Jamestown and is well known in the area. He will want to get a big turnout in Jamestown and shock both the ANC and the DA. The EFF and MCA are also contesting. 

Alfred Nzo District

There are four by-elections in this district, with two in Umzimvubu and one each in Matatiele and Mbizana. All four races are regarded as safe for the ANC.

Ward 21 (Mvenyane Cedarville) in Matatiele: ANC 47% (PR*), EFF 3% (PR)

This is a rural ward near the KwaZulu-Natal border. It is south of Cedarville which sits on the R56 road linking Kokstad with Matatiele.  The DA came within 48 votes of shocking the ANC in a rural ward where there are no sizeable clumps of minority voters. The UDM got more than 20% on the PR ballot in 2016, while a local party, the AIC, got 10% of the vote on the ward ballot. All three parties have made the strange decision to sit this one out, thus classifying this contest as safe for the ANC. The EFF and the Socialist Party of South Africa are also on the ballot. 

This ward is a perfect opportunity for the ANC to show the pundits that despite the predictions of the naysayers, the party is on the up in the province. 

Ward 18 (Mount Frere Badibanise) in Umzimvubu: ANC 76%, EFF 9% 

This is a ward in Mount Frere, the seat of the Umzimvubu municipality. It includes the Badibanise section of the town. Mount Frere is on the N2 national road between Qumbu and Mount Ayliffe. 

This is a safe ANC seat. Both the ANC and the EFF should grow in this by-election as they are the only two parties on the ballot.

Ward 25 (Tshungwana Cacadu) in Umzimvubu:  ANC 78% (PR), EFF 11% (PR)

This is a rural ward spanning from Tshungwana to Cacadu. The ward lies between the N2 national road and the R394 regional road. Both the ANC and the EFF can exhibit good growth in this by-election as they are the only two parties on the ballot. The UDM came second in 2016 but is absent from the by-election. The ANC has a good chance of convincing holds, allaying concerns that there will be a loss of support in its traditional bases. 

Ward 24 (Ebenezer Mngungundlovu) in Mbizana: ANC 86% (PR), EFF 2% (PR)

This ward is close to the Wild Coast Sun near the Eastern Cape/KwaZulu-Natal border. The ward is inland, just off the R61 road between Pele-Pele and the Wild Coast Sun. The ANC won big in 2016 and will be confident of another big win in the by-election. The DA came second in 2016 but is not contesting. The race for second – between the ATM and the EFF – will be interesting. 

Buffalo City Metro

The ANC is generally more vulnerable in metros than in rural areas. This is less of a case in Buffalo City, especially in wards which are in the outlying areas of the metro.

Ward 43 (Peelton Bisho)  in Buffalo City: ANC 68%, EFF 13% 

Peelton is an old mission station and a village which is near the capital of the Eastern Cape, Bhisho, on the R63 regional road. The DA and PAC both got 7% of the vote in 2016 but are sitting this one out. Expect the ANC to have a comfortable hold in the by-election. It will be challenged by the EFF and the AIC. 

Ward 45 (Ilitha Berlin) in Buffalo City: ANC 64% (PR), EFF 9% (PR)

Ilitha is near the small village of Berlin. Berlin is on the R102 next to the N2 national road, which links East London with King William’s Town. 

In 2016, independent candidate Thulani Tempi got 42% of the vote and gave the ANC a serious scare. The ANC has recruited him as its candidate for the by-election and will fancy its chances for a big win. The DA came second on the PR ballot in 2016 with 9%, and the PAC got 8% of the PR vote. Both have declined the opportunity to run. This will give further opportunity for the ANC and the EFF to grow. The AIC is the other party taking part. 

Sarah Baartman

This district and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is where the ANC is most vulnerable in the province. It includes Kouga, the only municipality in the province where the ANC is not in control. 

Ward 2 (Pellsrus Jeffreys Bay) in Kouga: ANC 60%, DA 39%

Pellsrus is on the south side of Jeffreys Bay. The DA carries the one voting district in the ward but the ANC runs up the numbers in the other voting district centred around the Tokyo Sexwale creche. The ANC won by more than 470 votes in 2016, and by just under 620 votes in 2019.

The ANC has enough of a buffer to hold on to this ward. The EFF and UDM are also contesting. 

Ward 14 (Alicedale Seven Fountains) in Makana: ANC 64%, EFF 4%

Alicedale is west of Makanda (Grahamstown). It is a small town with a railway station, a golf course and numerous game farms adjacent to it.  Ward 14 includes the Seven Fountains farming area which is south of Makanda. 

The DA got more than 30% of the vote in 2016 but is not participating in the by-election. Only the ANC and the EFF are contesting the ward and both parties should increase their percentage vote share from 2016.  

The ANC won a seat off the DA in 2019 and will want to point out that its higher percentage vote share in this by-election is a sign that the overwhelming number of voters in Makana remains behind it. 

OR Tambo District

There are three by-elections. All seats are safe for the ANC.

Ward 4 (Tombo Hlamvana) in Port St Johns: ANC 89%, EFF 5% 

Tombo is a rural village on the R61 regional road which links Port St Johns with Libode. The ANC is dominant in this ward and will hope to breach the 90% mark this time round. The EFF, ATM and AIC will be duelling for second place. The DA came second in 2016 but is not on the ballot this time round.

Ward 10 (Kwam KwaDumba) in Mhlontlo: ANC 71%, UDM 3%, EFF 1%

Ward 10 is a sparsely populated part of the municipality near Tina Falls far from any regional road, lying between Qumbu and Lusikisiki.

The Civic Independent (CI) party came second in 2016 with more than 20% of the vote. It is not running this time round. The ANC will fancy its chances of  improving on its 2016 result. The ATM, UDM and the EFF are also on the ballot.

Ward 3 (Mloma Phezukwamawa) in Nyandeni: ANC 79% (PR), EFF 6% (PR) 

This is a rural, sparsely populated ward north of Libode. Libode is the principal town in Nyandeni. The ward is near the N2 national road linking Tsolo with Mthatha. 

The ANC recruited Gcinibandla Mfakanye for this by-election. Mfakanye got more than 25% on the ward ballot in 2016 and should boost the ANC in this super safe seat. The ATM and EFF are also on the ballot. 

Amathole District

There are three by-elections, with two taking place in Amahlathi. 

Ward 19 (Zithulele Botho) in Mbhashe: ANC 63%, UDM 29%, EFF 2%

Ward 19 is sparse, rural and inland. This by-election is taking place because the ANC councillor had their membership terminated by the party for defying the party’s instructions. The UDM sees this as its best opportunity to remind Eastern Cape voters that it can still be a force in the province. The party will want to finish well ahead of the EFF and aim to get more than 35% of the vote in this ward. 

Ward 1 (Keiskammahoek Lower Gxulu) in Amahlathi: ANC 87%, EFF 5%

This ward is next to the R352 regional road which connects Stutterheim with Dimbaza. This is a very safe ANC seat. The ANC and EFF are the only two parties on the ballot and the ANC will hope it can obtain more than 90% of the vote.

Ward 13 (Xholorha Stutterheim) in Amahlathi: ANC 65%, DA 27%, EFF 7%

Ward 13 includes Xholorha township, west of Stutterheim, parts of Stutterheim and  Dohne and Heckel.

This by-election was called after the previous ANC councillor was expelled by the MEC after the councillor attacked a resident with a machete in the council chambers. Amahlathi is a municipality where the ANC has struggled to perform. The municipality has often been unable to pay salaries and has seen numerous service delivery protests and public violence. This included the torching of a municipal building in 2018. 

It is one of three by-elections in the Eastern Cape where the DA will be participating this time round. The DA will want a strong second place. The EFF and COPE are also on the ballot and will want to benefit from voters dissatisfied with the ANC’s performance in the municipality.

Chris Hani

Ward 11 (Mlungisi New Rest Queenstown) in Enoch Mgijima: ANC 66%, EFF 9%

Mlungisi and New Rest are south of the centre of Queenstown near the airport. The ANC will expect an easy win, and know that there is a good opportunity to increase its percentage vote share in the ward. The DA came second in 2016 with 25% of the vote but is not on the ballot this time. The EFF will hope to get above 20%.

There are very few banana peels for the ANC in this round of by-elections. The party has a very good chance of increasing its percentage in the majority of the wards on November 11, although the by-elections in Walter Sisulu and Ward in Amahlathi need to be watched carefully. 

*The proportional representation (PR) ballot results are used as they are a more accurate reflection of the contesting parties standing in the ward. DM 

Wayne Sussman is an elections analyst 










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  • Why on earth do the electorate in the Eastern Cape continue to vote for the ANC, the party that has been stealing them blind for the last twenty five years? They can’t be THAT blind!

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