South Africa

BY-ELECTION SUPER WEDNESDAY

Phokwane Preview: The Northern Cape municipality set for new faces

(Illustrative image | sources: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius| Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images | municipalities.co.za | Twitter)

Stability and service delivery are urgently needed in this Northern Cape council which will have six parties on the ballots.

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

Phokwane lies in the north-western corner of the Northern Cape in the Frances Baard District. It is a green belt in the largest province, known for its dryness and aridity. Phokwane’s economy is linked to the Vaal-Harts Irrigation Scheme, as this is where the two rivers link up. Silos and canals are etched into the landscape of this municipality in an area known for its olives, maize, grain and pecan nuts. 

Its close proximity to the North West gives one the first clue of its political persuasions. This is a municipality where the African National Congress (ANC) tends to do better than its provincial average. The ANC won a clear majority here in 2016, winning 12 of 19 seats.

The municipality was dissolved by Bentley Vass, the Northern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, because of its continued dysfunctionality and lack of clear leadership. The ANC was heavily divided, resulting in two mayors and two council speakers.

Crocket Adams and Kgomotsego Mokale were expelled from the ANC in October 2019 for defying party instructions and working with the opposition. Adams was elected mayor after some ANC councillors cooperated with the opposition to depose the ANC’s preferred mayor and speaker.

Adams and Mokale are not contesting these by-elections. That decision is a boon for the ANC because the party will not risk shedding votes to high-profile independent candidates.

Phokwane has also been in the news this year for two serious crimes, one of which could affect by-election results, particularly in Ward 6, the only ward won by the DA in 2016. Elzabie, Breggie and Danie Brand were kidnapped from their Hartswater plot and their bodies were found near Taung in North West. The murders received national attention and caused rage and tension in the farming town. Ward 6 is the most marginal seat in Phokwane and will be a three-horse race between the Democratic Alliance (DA), the ANC and the VryheidsFront Plus (VF+).

There are six contesting parties. The ANC, DA, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), VF+, Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) and African Independent Congress (AIC) are all on the ballot. There is only one independent candidate. 

Of the 12 ANC councillors elected in 2016, only one can realistically be re-elected. If things go very well for the ANC, that number could climb to two. It is clear that the ANC has gone for new talent and will want to avoid infighting. When it comes to the other parties, one DA councillor from the previous term is likely to be re-elected and possibly one EFF councillor. This means that the next term will be overwhelmingly composed of new councillors.

In 2016, the AIC finished well ahead of Azapo and VF+ to finish in fourth place. It won a single seat. The party will battle this time around as the VF+ and Azapo are in a better position. The DA finished second in 2016 and on the provincial ballot in Phokwane in 2019. The VF+ is expected to eat into the DA’s support base and the EFF has a good chance of emerging as the second-largest party in Phokwane after 11 November.

Only two seats are competitive. Eight wards are safe for the ANC, while Ward 10 is likely ANC and Ward 6 is a tossup.

Ward 1 (Pampierstad) ANC (72%) EFF (18%) DA (5%) Azapo (3%) AIC (1%)

Pampierstad is the part of Phokwane where the ANC traditionally runs up the numbers. Ward 1 is on the edge of Pampierstad, on the border of the North West. This was one of two wards where the ANC got 72% of the vote in 2016 — the highest percentage vote share in the municipality. Incidentally, Ward 1 was represented by one of the two ANC councillors expelled in October 2019. It will be interesting to see whether that affects turnout. The EFF, DA, Azapo, AIC and VF+ are also competing.

Ward 2 (Pampierstad Extension 3) ANC (63%) EFF (21%) DA (6%) AIC (5%) Azapo (4%)

This ward is in the southern part of Pampierstad. The EFF did well, getting more than 20% of the vote. It will want to aim for 30%. The race for third place was very close in 2016. It will be worth watching to see if the DA can finish third again. The ANC will want to ensure a big margin separates it from the EFF. Azapo, AIC and VF+ will also be on the ballot. 

Ward 3 (Pampierstad Hartswater Plots) ANC (58%) EFF (22%) DA (7%) AIC (5%) Azapo (4%) VF+ (1%)

Ward 3 is in the centre of Pampierstad. It also includes some plots in the Hartswater area. Of the five wards which include parts of Pampierstad, this was where the ANC had its second-poorest showing in the 2016 local government elections. This was where the EFF performed best in 2016. The race for third was also close. The DA, Azapo, AIC and VF+ make up the rest of the competition in the ward.

Ward 4 (Magogong Pampierstad) ANC (52%) DA (20%) EFF (15%) Azapo (8%) VF+ (2%) AIC (1%)

Ward 4 includes the Northern Cape part of Magogong and the north-western section of Pampierstad. The ANC might have been well ahead of the DA in this ward, but it battled to clear 50% as the DA and the EFF both got sizeable chunks of the vote. Azapo had its best result in this ward in 2016. The opposition will be desperate to bring the ANC below 50% this time around. The VF+ will also be looking for some votes here.

Ward 5 (Bonita Park Pampierstad) ANC (63%) DA (16%) EFF (14%) AIC (4%) Azapo (1%)

Bonita Park is home to many coloured communities in Phokwane. It is next to Pampierstad. The ANC had a big win here in 2016. Both the DA and EFF will want to do better in Bonita Park this time around. The VF+ are the fourth and final party competing in this ward.

Ward 6 (Hartswater) DA (50%) ANC (38%) VF+ (6%) EFF (4%)

Ward 6 is the most likely ward to flip in this Phokwane election. This DA ward could be snatched by either the ANC or the VF+. The DA beat the ANC by less than 200 votes in 2016. That election was a two-horse race with the VF+ and the EFF making up the numbers. 

The DA lost ground to the VF+ in 2019 when one considers the voting districts which make up this ward on the provincial ballot. This resulted in the ANC getting 109 more votes than the DA. The ANC will want to replicate what happened in 2019 in the by-election. It is certainly plausible that that can happen, especially considering the VF+ has continued to increase its support among white Afrikaans voters in farming communities since 2019. In order for the VF+ to win the ward, the DA vote share would need to collapse and there would need to be an approximate switch between what the DA got and what the VF+ got in 2016. The VF+’s percentage vote share increased three-fold in 2019 compared with 2016 — the party got 18% of the vote. The EFF finished a distant fourth in 2016 with 6% of the vote. 

A VF+ surge in the ward is more likely to result in an ANC win than a VF+ win. The ANC’s percentage vote share in the ward hovers just below the 40% mark, rather than the 30%-35% mark. The ANC would have an advantage in a genuine three-horse race and a real chance of winning a clean sweep of all the Phokwane wards.

Ward 7 (Valspan Jan Kempdorp) ANC (72%) EFF (14%) DA (9%)

Jan Kempdorp is next to Hartswater on the N18 national road. Valspan is one of the neighbourhoods. The ANC obtained more than 70% of the vote in 2016. The ward councillor was Crocket Adams, the former ANC mayor who was expelled by the party in 2019. He is not on the ballot. Turnout will need to be compared with the other Jan Kempdorp wards to see if his absence affects ANC enthusiasm. The EFF, DA and VF+ will also be on the ballot.

Ward 8 (Valspan Masakeng) ANC (70%) DA (13%) EFF (9%)

Ward 8 has the most registered voters in Phokwane. The ANC had a convincing victory in this Jan Kempdorp ward in 2016. The race for second place will be the most interesting contest as the DA will aim to finish second again, holding off the EFF and the only independent candidate on the ballot in Phokwane — Raletlala Mokaotsi. The VF+ is the final contesting party.

Ward 9 (Jan Kempdorp Andalusia) ANC (57%) DA (25%) EFF (7%) VF+ (3%)

The ANC runs up the numbers in Andalusia, where about 80% of the voters cast their ballots. The DA relies on voters in the three smaller voting districts in and around the Tadcaster plot area. It will be worth watching to see how the VF+ affects the DA, especially in the traditional DA voting district areas. The EFF is also contesting.

Ward 10 (Ganspan Jan Kempdorp) ANC (53%) DA (30%) EFF (9%) VF+ (3%)

The ward includes Ganspan, a small town on the outskirts of Jan Kempdorp on the R370 road to Delportshoop and segments of Jan Kempdorp. This ward was the second-most competitive ward in 2016, but the ANC won by a wider margin on the provincial ballot in the voting districts making up Ward 10. The ANC’s percentage vote share went up to 56%, while the DA’s percentage vote share almost halved as it fell to 18%. The EFF had good gains here, ending on 16%, while the VF+ got 7% of the vote.

If the ANC gets its supporters out in Ganspan, it will retain this slightly competitive ward. 

Conclusion

The ANC will be favoured to win an outright majority and trust that the new councillors and leadership will bring stability and service delivery to the municipality. The EFF has a great chance to become the second-biggest party, based on its growth and the potential growth of the VF+ at the expense of the DA. The DA will do everything it can to hold Ward 6 and maintain its three seats. The VF+ is likely to enter the council with the AIC falling out. DM

Wayne Sussman is an elections analyst.

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