South Africa


KwaZulu-Natal Preview: Will the stars align for the ANC in bid to defend four seats and hopefully pick up others?

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

There are 12 by-elections in the province, where the ANC is defending four seats, including three in eThekwini. The IFP has three tough defences, with only one safe ward, the DA is defending three seats. Curiously, the NFP are not even contesting the one ward seat they hold in the country. There are also a host of local parties on the ballot forms.

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

The ANC had an outright win here in 2019 but lost much ground from its 2014 showing. The party’s support declined from 65% to 54%, seeing it lose eight seats as it went from 52 seats to 44 in the provincial legislature. The IFP replaced the DA as the official opposition by winning 13 seats, up from nine in 2014. The DA fell to third place but was able to increase its seat total in the province by winning 11 seats, one more than the 10 it won in 2014.

The EFF made a breakthrough in the province as it increased its seat total from two to eight. It was a different story for the National Freedom Party (NFP). The party lost five of its six seats as its support nosedived across the province. The Minority Front (MF), a KwaZulu-Natal party, managed to hold onto its seat, while the African Transformation Movement (ATM) was able to win a seat at its first attempt. The final seat went to the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), which lost its seat in the legislature in 2014 but was able to regain it this time round. 

Many seats changed hands between January 2019 and the time when the pandemic put a stop to by-elections in early 2020. 

The ANC was able to win three seats off the IFP in Endumeni (Sithembile Glencoe), uMhlabuyalingana (Kwa-Mabaso), AbaQulusi (eMondlo), and three seats off the DA in eThekwini (Bottlebrush Shallcross) and Endumeni (Glencoe Glenridge) and Msunduzi (Allandale, Pietermaritzburg).

The IFP won a ward off the ANC in Mtubatuba (Mpukunyoni) and the NFP shocked the ANC in Umvoti (Nhlalakahle). 

The stars are aligned for a potentially great night for the ANC in the province as the party defends four safe seats, and also has the opportunity to realistically pick up three additional seats off the IFP and a seat off the NFP. The IFP has tough defences in Mtubatuba, uPhongolo and Mthonjaneni. 

Umkhanyakude District

Ward 10 (Mfekayi Ophondweni) in Mtubatuba: IFP (45%),  ANC (42%), AIC (4%) and EFF (4%).

Ward 10 is a rural ward in Mtubatuba. The ward straddles the N2 highway between Mtubatuba and Hluhluwe. It includes the villages of Mfekayi and Ophondweni and small settlements around the Charters Creek road near Mfekayi. The IFP won this ward by 69 votes in 2016.  The ANC bested the IFP by a mere 15 votes (factoring in the voting districts that made up Ward 10 on the provincial ballot) in 2019. 

One of the more under-reported deals of 2019 was the ANC’s cooperation agreement with the IFP. In return for leaving the DA-led coalition in the City of Johannesburg, the IFP agreed to work with the ANC in Johannesburg and Mogale City (Krugersdorp), giving the party the chance to show Gauteng voters how it will perform in government in the most populous province. The deal also saw the IFP annulling its informal agreement with the DA and the EFF in northern KwaZulu-Natal in municipalities where the IFP does not have an outright majority, and working with the ANC instead. 

This deal was almost upended a few weeks ago when the ANC voted out the IFP mayor in Mtubatuba and elected one of its councillors instead. The ANC was frustrated by the municipality’s failure to deliver services and the IFP’s inept leadership in Mtubatuba. The situation is still precarious and if the cooperation agreement ends then this by-election has added importance.

The 40 seats currently are as follows: IFP 19, ANC 17, DA 2, EFF 1 and AIC 1.  

The existing deal between the ANC and the IFP gives them a large majority of 36/40 seats in the council. If the deal fails, the IFP could do a deal with the DA as the IFP’s 19 seats and the DA’s two seats gives it a majority. However, if the ANC wins this by-election and the deal between the ANC and the IFP breaks down, then the IFP would need to work with the EFF as well to get a majority as the IFP’s seat tally would fall to 18 and the DA’s two seats would see it controlling 20/40 seats. It would need the EFF’s vote and support to govern without the ANC and its ally, the African Independent Congress (AIC). 


There’s a staggering nine parties on the ballot here. The race for third place will be between the EFF, the NFP, Justice and Employment Party (JEP) – a party formed in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017, National People’s Front (NAPF), a breakaway from the NFP, People’s Freedom Party (PFP), a new left-wing party lead by Themba Buthelezi. The United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the United Christian Democratic Party (UCDP) complete the list.

Zululand District 

Ward 4 (Ntshangase Whitecliff) in uPhongolo: IFP (49%). ANC (48%) and EFF (1%).

Ward 4 is north west of Pongola, just off the N2 national road linking Pongola with the Mpumalanga border. The ward is also very close to the border with eSwatini. The ward’s principal villages are Ntshangase and Whitecliff. This ward went in different directions in 2016. On the ward ballot, the IFP won by 28 votes, while on the proportional representation (PR) ballot, the ANC won by 24 votes. Both results were extremely close. 

The by-election was called after the previous IFP councillor was expelled.  

This will be a two-horse race between the IFP and the ANC. A win here for the ANC will see it consolidate its majority in the council and send a strong message to the opposition parties in uPhongolo. 

The race for third place will be between the EFF, the NFP, the NAPF and the PFP. 

King Cetshwayo District

There are two by-elections in this district. The big race will be in Mthonjaneni.

Ward 6 (Ekuthuleni Entembeni) in Mthonjaneni: IFP (51%), ANC (46%) and EFF (2%) 

Mthonjaneni is a rural, inland municipality. Its principal town is Melmoth, sitting between Ulundi and Eshowe. Ward 6 is a sparsely populated ward, south of Melmoth, west of where the R34 road meets the R66. 

This is another exceptionally close race. The IFP might have received over 51% of the vote in 2016, but the ANC was breathing down the party’s neck, falling short by a mere 100 votes. 

Control of the municipality is not at stake, but an IFP loss here will reduce its buffer of control to one seat, and also show the ANC’s clear intentions to take over this IFP municipality in 2021. The EFF is also on the ballot here.

Ward 13 (Mzwaneni Ntulwana) in Nkandla: ANC (68%), IFP (32%).

Ward 13 is close to the Nkandla Homestead, the home of former president Jacob Zuma. While the IFP has an outright majority in the municipality, the ANC won this ward by more than 2:1 in 2016 and should have a comfortable hold here. The EFF is the third party on the ballot in this ward. 

Umzinyathi District

There are two by-elections in this district. There is a fascinating contest in uMvoti.

Ward 7 (Enhlalakahle Greytown) in uMvoti: NFP (57%), ANC (40%), IFP (2%) and EFF (1%) 

In August last year many election watchers woke up to a remarkable political upset. The NFP, a party on the ropes, won a super safe ANC seat in uMvoti. The ANC won Ward 7 with over 80% of the vote in 2016 and saw that percentage vote share plummet to 40% in August. It was less to do with the NFP and much more to do with the candidate in that by-election. PG Mavundla. Mavundla is a well-known businessperson in Greytown, and a former mayor of uMvoti. He was also a strong backer and ally of Zuma. Soon after Mavundla won, he realised that the NFP ticket was not the best brand for him on the road to the 2021 local government elections. He resigned as ward councillor and quit the party. He formed a new party called the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC) and his new party will debut in this round of by-elections. He will be back on the ballot and hope to put his party on the map on 11 November.

Enhlalakahle is south of Greytown. Bizarrely, the NFP is not even running to try to keep its only ward in the country. There are five parties on the ballot. The EFF, IFP and JEP will compete for third place. The ANC will hope that Mavundla’s relationship with Enhlalakahle will have soured and that it regains this seat. 

Ward 15 (Mkhonjane Hlathi-Ngudulwane) in Nqutu: IFP (62%), ANC (24%) and EFF (1%)

The IFP has happy memories from Nqutu. In May 2017, the party won four seats off the ANC in Nqutu. It held Ward 15 but increased its majority share of the vote in this ward. Three years later it will be interesting to see whether the voters in Ward 15 are happy with the IFP’s performance. 

Ward 15 is north and west of the town of Nqutu. It is a rural, sparsely populated ward. The IFP should hold comfortably here. The EFF, JEP, ABC, NFP, NAPF will battle it out for third place. Incidentally, it will be interesting to see whether the ABC can make an impact on KZN politics beyond Enhlalakahle. 


The ANC tends to do better in provincial and national elections than local elections. For instance, it got 54% nationally in the 2016 local government elections and 58% nationally in 2019. The DA performs better in local government elections than national and provincial elections. So while the DA improved its performance in KwaZulu-Natal in 2019 compared to that of 2014, its performance in eThekwini was well off from what it achieved in 2016. This went according to the script. What was not according to script was the ANC’s performance in eThekwini. The party had an obvious low point in 2016. However, when one compares its performance in eThekwini in 2016, compared to that of its performance in eThekwini on all the provincial ballots in 2019, it would have lost 10 seats on the council. In sharp contrast was the EFF. In 2016, the EFF won 10 seats in eThekwini. Looking at the 2019 provincial results in eThekwini, the party would have amassed 25 seats on the council.

There is concern for the ANC in eThekwini. It is defending three safe seats in eThekwini while the DA defends one safe seat.

Ward 32 (Durban Central Clairwood) in eThekwini: ANC (63%), DA (14%), IFP (12%) and EFF (6%)

This inner city ward has the majority of its voters in the city centre, but the ward also includes Clairwood, south of the city centre. 

The ANC won by a country mile here in 2016. In 2019, when one looks at the provincial vote in the voting districts comprising this ward, you see the EFF surging to second place, more than tripling its percentage vote share to 19%. Using the same method, the ANC’s percentage vote share in the ward falls to 55%, the IFP holds steady at 12% and the DA declined to 9%. The EFF will continue to want to make strides in the city. JEP, Al-Jamah, the NFP, the AIC and the Shosholoza Progressive Party (SPP) are also on the ballot. 

Ward 35 (Durban North Riverside) in eThekwini: DA (85%), ANC (11%), and EFF (1%).

This seat is a DA stronghold. The ward is just north of the Umgeni river. 

The ANC, EFF, SPP, AIC and IFP are also on the ballot here. The DA will look to this ward for a big morale-boosting victory.

Ward 81 (Umlazi C,F) in eThekwini: ANC (81%), EFF (6%), and IFP (6%)

Umlazi is south of the city centre. The ANC got over 80% of the vote in 2016 and will aim to secure a comfortable victory over the EFF and IFP again. The EFF almost tripled its percentage vote share in the ward when one considers the provincial vote results of the districts, which make up the ward. This came largely at the expense of the ANC, which fell by 11 percentage points in the ward. The EFF will aim to get in excess of 20% of the vote here this time. 

The AIC and the People’s Revolutionary Movement (PRM) are also on the ballot here. The PRM is a socially conservative party formed by a former ANC councillor in eThekwini.

Ward 84 (Umlazi A, B) in eThekwini: ANC (84% PR*), IFP (6% PR), and EFF (4% PR)

The ANC won by an even bigger margin in this ward in 2016, compared to Ward 81 when one looks at the vote share on the proportional representation (PR) ballot. The EFF almost quadrupled its percentage vote share when it got 15% on the provincial ballot in the voting districts making up Ward 84 in 2019. Using this same metric, the ANC declined from 84% to 72%, while the IFP showed slight growth. The ANC should have a comfortable hold but the EFF will want to ensure its positive growth trajectory in Umlazi continues.

Other parties on the ballot are JEP, PRM and the AIC.  

Ugu District

Ward 2 (Ramsgate) in Ray Nkonyeni: DA (79%), ANC (16%), VF+ (4%), and EFF (1%)

Ramsgate is on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, between Margate and Southbroom. The DA won comfortably here in 2016. The Freedom Front Plus could take votes away from the party in the ward but the DA is expected to hold this ward by a wide margin, but by a slightly reduced majority. The ANC, EFF and IFP are also contesting here.

uMgungundlovu District

Ward 25 (Montrose Chase Valley, Pietermaritzburg) in Msunduzi: DA (88%), ANC (10%), and EFF (1%)

Ward 25 lies north west of the city centre of Pietermaritzburg. It includes the suburbs of Montrose and Chase Valley. It is a DA stronghold. The DA will want a dominant performance. The ANC will finish runner up here, and the fight for third place will be between the IFP, AIC and EFF. 

The ANC has a golden opportunity to pick up a host of seats north of Pietermaritzburg. It knows that it has a great chance to stunt the IFP’s growth expectations in the province and prevent PG Mavundla’s ABC from taking off. A win in Mtubatuba for the ANC will also be a vindication for the party’s power play in Mtubatuba. The EFF will have a laser focus on the three ANC held wards in eThekwini and will want to continue to chip away at the ANC’s strong position in the metro. The DA have a solid opportunity to notch up big wins in its strongholds, but will be apprehensive about VF+ inroads in Ramsgate. There are a host of local parties on the ballot. It will be interesting to see which of them, if any, can stand out in the province. 

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

Wayne Sussman is an elections analyst


















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