South Africa

BY-ELECTION SUPER WEDNESDAY

North West Preview: ANC Coalition at risk of losing Rustenburg and giving EFF its first mayor

Illustrative image | sources: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius| municipalities.co.za

In 2019 the North West province encapsulated the continued rise of the EFF and showcased how the VF+ were hurting the DA. Will these two trends continue, or will the ANC and the DA be able to steady the ship in these tough North West political waters

The African National Congress (ANC) won a comfortable majority in the North West in 2019. Their percentage share of the vote fell by 5% points as they lost two seats in the legislature, falling from 23 seats to 21. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) continued their impressive rise in the North West, achieving their best provincial result in the country, with 19% of the vote, up from 13% in 2014. They won six seats. 

The DA (Democratic Alliance) shed votes to the Vryheids Front+ (VF+) in the province but held onto their four seats, while the VF+ won a second seat in the province. The North West was one of two legislatures in the country where no party fell out of the legislature and no new party won enough votes to enter the legislature.

The period between January 2019 and the time when the pandemic put a stop to by-elections in early 2020 saw a lot of pivotal by-elections in the province. The VF+ won key by-elections off the DA in Matlosana (Stilfontein), JB Marks (Miederpark Potchefstroom) and in Mamusa (Schweizer Reneke). The VF+ won no wards in the 2016 local government elections, but in the space of a few short months in 2019, they shocked the DA three times in the province. 

The second development was a breakthrough for the EFF. The party was already in its second term as the official opposition, but the party performed best in the platinum belt of the province. In January 2020 they surged in Mamusa-an agricultural area and won an additional 3 proportional representation (PR) seats on the Mamusa council.

Bojanala District: Ward 2 (Chaneng) in Rustenburg ANC (49%) EFF (45%)

Chaneng is a village which lies off the R565 between the Boshoek smelter and the Sun City resort. The ANC was unable to get over 50% of the vote here and eked out a 118-vote victory here in 2016 over the EFF. This on paper is a very competitive race, but when one looks at the 2016 proportional representation (PR) ballot results, you see that the ANC won there by 22% points. In the 2019 elections, the ANC beat the EFF by a margin of 2:1 and the results there were much closer to the PR ballot results from 2016, rather than the ward result.

This is a high stakes by-election as a loss for the ANC here will mean that the current ANC coalition in Rustenburg is at risk of losing power.  The ANC has 43 out of the 89 seats, and works with its reliable coalition partner, the African Independent Congress (AIC) with one seat, and a local party the Bokone Civic Movement (BCM) with one seat. 

It gets complicated here as the BCM said it was divorcing the ANC but it is not clear that this has happened as the ANC is still in power and has not faced a motion of no confidence since the BCM said it was leaving the coalition. The deal between the ANC, AIC and BCM gives these parties a razor thin majority.

If the ANC loses this seat, it could go to the North West party, Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) with four seats, or ask Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM) with one seat to return the favour from Nelson Mandela Bay, and support the ANC coalition.

An ANC loss here will give the EFF the opportunity to potentially install the first EFF mayor in the country as they have 24 seats and have 10 more seats then the third largest party in the council-the DA.

If the ANC are united here, they should prevail, but the EFF will want to throw everything but the kitchen sink at this by-election. A new local party, the Tsogang Civic Movement (TCM) and an independent candidate are also on the ballot here.

Ward 8 (Mmakaunyane) in Moretele ANC (65%) Agenda to City Governors (18%) EFF (11%)

Mmakaunyane sits near the Gauteng border by Tshwane, between Jericho in the North West and Winterveld in Gauteng. The ANC controls 38 out of the 52 available seats on this council. The seat of this municipality is in Makapanstad.

A local party Agenda to City Governors finished second in this ward in 2016. The race for second between them and the EFF will be the most interesting contest here as the ANC are expected to retain this seat with ease.

Ward 29 (Broederstroom Kosmos) in Madibeng DA (61%) ANC (29%) EFF (6%)

This ward is centred near and around the Hartbeespoort Dam, close to the Gauteng border of the North West. The DA had a convincing win here in 2016, beating the ANC by 32% percentage points. However, when one looks at the provincial results of the 2019 elections in the voting districts making up this ward, you see a much closer race. 

The DA only beat the ANC by 9% points as they got 45% of the vote and the ANC received 36%. The ANC ran up the numbers in the voting district by the Schaumburg school on the R560 linking Hartbeespoort with Hekpoort. The DA wins the remaining three voting districts. These include Broederstroom, a small village on the footsteps of the Magaliesberg, Kosmos, which sits on the Hartbeespoort Dam  and the village of Skeerpoort. The DA will be boosted by the VF+ not being on the ballot. 

This fact suggests that the DA should be favoured to hold this ward and get a morale boosting victory in the North West. The EFF are also contesting here.

JB Marks-Kenneth Kaunda District

There are three by-elections in JB Marks. The seat of power is in Potchefstroom. The ANC have a majority of one in the council and, in theory, could lose power if they lose one of the two seats they hold. The two seats the ANC are defending are in Ikageng, and are safe seats. The ANC have an additional layer of comfort in that local party-Independent Councillors (IC), a former ANC breakaway party in JB Marks, have been working very closely with the ANC in council and would be expected to formally join the JB Marks government if the ANC lost a ward here. The IC has two seats.

In late October, the mayor of JB Marks, Kgotso Khumalo and a senior municipal official were arrested by the Hawks for allegedly funnelling R5-million from the municipal coffers to a trust account. It remains to be seen whether this negative publicity will affect the ANC at the polls here.

Going into the JB Marks by-elections, the party who will be sweating the most is the DA as they run the risk of losing another seat to the VF+ in the North West.

Ward 5 (Potchefstroom South) in JB Marks DA (78%)  VF+ (18%) ANC (3%)

The DA beat the VF+ here by 900 votes in 2016. However, the VF+ have only gone in one direction in JB Marks since 2016 and that is up. On the 2019 provincial ballot, the DA’s percentage vote share fell to 56%, while the VF+ almost doubled its percentage vote share to 35%. 

This ward is also very close to Miederpark, where the VF+ took another ward off the DA in 2019 in a famous by-election victory. This by-election will be a two horse race; undecided voters who are leaning to the VF+ know that their vote will not allow the ANC to sneak in through the back door here as the ANC finish a distant third in the ward. 

If the VF+ win here, and they EFF are not able to win one of the Ikageng by-elections, the party will become the third largest party in JB Marks. There is only one other municipality in the country, where the VF+ is outright the third-largest party and that is in Hessequa (Riversdale) in the Western Cape. This ward is the VF+’s best chance for a pickup opportunity in this round of by-elections.

Ward 5 is a suburban part of Potchefstroom in the southern part of the town. The EFF are also competing here.

JB Marks Ward 9 (Mohadin Ikageng) ANC (71%) EFF (10%)

These two townships are west of Potchefstroom, near the N12 national road linking Potchefstroom with Klerksdorp.

The ANC had a commanding victory here in 2016 and replicated that result on the provincial ballot here in 2019. The IC came second here in 2016 but are not on the ballot for the by-election. This is a safe ANC seat but the stakes are high as the EFF and the independent candidate would love to ensure that the ANC’s loses its majority in council.

JB Marks Ward 18 (Ikageng Sarafina) ANC (81%) EFF (9%)

Ikageng is an even safer ANC seat. The ANC were able to obtain what they received here in 2016 on the 2019 provincial ballot. The EFF did grow in the ward in 2019, but are still far behind the ANC in this ward. This will be a two horse race. It is a secure ANC seat but even though the seat is secure, the ANC cannot afford to rest on its laurels here as it will want to keep its outright control of JB Marks.

The North West province was the best illustration of the story of the 2019 elections; it encapsulated the continued rise of the EFF and also showcased how the VF+ were hurting the DA. Will these two trends continue in this round of by-elections, or will the ANC and the DA be able to steady the ship in these tough North West political waters. DM

Wayne Sussman is an elections analyst.

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