South Africa

By-Election Super Wednesday

Gauteng Preview: SA’s most populous province braces for a scramble for council seats

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

Fourteen seats are being contested in Gauteng in Wednesday's by-elections, five in the city of Johannesburg. The ANC will defend 10 seats, of which nine are safe. The DA will defend four seats, with the ANC likely to take at least one.

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

It was soon after voting ended in South Africa’s national and provincial elections in 2019 when it became apparent that the ANC would retain power on a national level as well as in seven of the nine provinces. 

It was also clear that the DA would retain outright control of the Western Cape. 

It was plain for all to see that the ANC would finish as the leading party in Gauteng, but less clear was whether the party would get over 50% of the vote and a simple majority in the legislature. 

The party ended on 50,19% of the vote, down from the 54% it received in 2014.  It also ended up with a single seat majority in the legislature, winning 37/73 seats, down from the 40 seats it won in 2014, securing another five years to govern in Gauteng. 

The ANC was not the only party to decline by 4% points. The DA fell from 31% of the vote to 27% and lost three seats, falling from 23 to 20.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) picked up an additional three seats to end up with 11, improving its vote share by 5% points and receiving 15% of the Gauteng vote. 

The Freedom Front+ ended with three seats, up by two from 2014, while the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) were able to win a seat each. The ACDP lost its seat in the legislature in 2014 and were able to return to it in 2019.

The ANC won two seats off the DA in the space of seven weeks in 2019. These were in Johannesburg in Ward 109 (Marlboro Wendywood) and in Ekurhuleni in Ward 29 (Actonville Apex). 

These two by-elections saw the ANC flipping voting districts with large pockets of Indian voters. This included Marlboro Gardens in Johannesburg and Actonville in Ekurhuleni. The ANC had already made gains in the 2019 national and provincial elections, but were able to continue that trend in these two by-elections. 

This is relevant for this round of by-elections as there are two being held in Lenasia, with pockets of Indian voters in Ward 68 (Riverlea Pennyville) in Johannesburg and in Ward 21 (Evaton Roshnee) in Emfuleni in the Sedibeng region of the province.

City of Johannesburg

There are five by-elections being held in Johannesburg. Two are taking place after two DA ward councillors defied party orders and attended a council meeting to elect a new speaker. Ward 120 councillor Vinay Choonie also admitted to voting in the secret ballot for ANC mayoral candidate Geoff Makhubo. Choonie and Ward 68 councillor Basil Douglas were subsequently expelled from their party and lost their seats. 

The DA is also defending an uncertain seat in Ward 9. This by-election is taking place after councillor Kishore Badal resigned from the council, then quit the DA and entered the race as an independent. 

The ANC is also defending two seats in Johannesburg. The difference here is that the by-elections are taking place because two of their councillors died. Both wards are safe ANC seats. 

The City of Johannesburg seat allocation has been tricky since the DA was dumped and Geoff Makhubo (ANC) took over as mayor. The ANC (122 seats) has a coalition agreement with the IFP (five seats) and the African Independent Congress (AIC) with four seats. The party is also backed by the ACDP (one seat) in Johannesburg. This gives them 132 seats out of 270 seats. 

It seems that the Congress of the People (COPE) – one seat, and the Patriotic Alliance (PA ) –  also one seat – are no longer part of the coalition. The United Democratic Movement (UDM), which has one seat, has not carried out its threats to withdraw.

Al-Jamah, which has one seat, has an informal voting coalition arrangement with the ANC.

The opposition benches also have a total of 134 councillors who will not lend their support to the ANC. This includes the DA which has 103 seats, the EFF (30 seats) and the FF+ (one seat).

The ANC has options. It can work out their issues with the PA and COPE, or formalise a deal between them, the UDM and Al-Jamah. The ANC would rather not be held ransom by one-seat kingmakers and have a unique opportunity here to pick up three DA seats. 

The ANC can fulfil two potential objectives with this round of by-elections – first by achieving a quorum, having 50% plus one of the councillors present for key council votes. Due to the vacancies at present, the ANC has challenges in controlling the business of the council. 

The second objective is to win two or three wards off the DA and cobble together a working government for the City, which will not be held hostage by one-seat parties with special interests or demand too much from the ANC. 

In theory, the results of the by-elections could have enduring consequences for the running of the City, but the ANC’s control of Johannesburg could still be determined by a single-person party caucus. 

Ward 9 (Lenasia 1, 3, 7, 13), DA (56% PR), ANC (28% PR), Al-Jamah (7% PR), EFF (3% PR)

Ward 9 is in the northwestern part of Lenasia. The DA beat the ANC by a margin of 2:1 on the proportional representation (PR) ballot in 2016, but the margin was much closer in 2019 on the provincial ballot. 

The DA got 45% of the vote in the ward, compared to the ANC’s 40%. 

This by-election could be a three-horse race between the DA, the ANC and former DA ward councillor Kishore Badal, who is running as an independent. 

The ANC will need to run up the numbers around the Jiswa Service Centre for the Aged in and around Extension 13. This was the only voting district the party carried in 2019, but it is also the most vote-rich district in the ward. 

In 2019, the DA did best around the Nirvana Secondary School voting station in Extension 3. This is, however, the second smallest station in the ward. Of the ANC’s three pick-up opportunities in Johannesburg, this should be the trickiest. 

This is a crowded field. There are eight options on the ballot. Will frustrated residents turn their back on the DA and the ANC and give the independent their backing, or will more residents give Al-Jamah a chance? 

The ACDP, Alliance For One Nation, EFF and Shosholoza Progressive Party are also competing here.  

Ward 41 (Meadowlands East Zone 5), ANC (72%), EFF (16%) 

Meadowlands East is northeast of the centre of Soweto, next to Orlando West. 

The ANC had a convincing win here in 2016 and were able to improve here in 2019, given the provincial ballot results from the voting districts in this ward. The ANC got 75% of the vote then, with the EFF netting 17%. 

Steve Ranyabu, an independent, completes the field here. 

Ward 68 (Riverlea Pennyville), DA (46%), ANC (41%), EFF (11%), Al-Jamah (1%)

Ward 68 is to the west and the southwest of the Johannesburg CBD. 

Most voters (almost two thirds) live in the suburb of Riverlea. The majority voted for the DA in 2016 and 2019, but there is a part of Riverlea on the Crown side of Nasrec road which is favourable to the ANC, and the closer one gets to the edge of Riverlea on the Soweto side, the better the ANC performs. 

The ANC far outperforms the DA in Pennyville where about 30% of the voters in the ward live. The same in Industria where just over 5% of the voters are. 

The DA won this ward by 439 votes in 2016, with local strongman Basil Douglas’s candidacy for the DA helping the party get over the line.  Douglas was expelled from the DA and died earlier in the year. 

The ANC got 721 more votes than the DA on the provincial ballot in this ward in 2019. The PA, ACDP, EFF, Al, Jamah and Alliance for One Nation are also on the ballot here. 

Ward 120 (Lenasia South Unaville), DA (48% PR), ANC (40% PR), EFF (6% PR), AIC (2% PR), Al-Jamah (1% PR)

Much of Lenasia South falls between the R558 and R553. 

The DA does best on the side of Lenasia South, near the R558, while the ward becomes more competitive the closer you move to the R553. 

The ANC historically does best in the areas on the other side of the R553, at Vlakfontein Extension 3 and Migson. 

A significant development in the ward is the growth since 2017 of an informal settlement in Unaville. This led to an additional voting district being added to the ward to deal with the increase in registered voters. 

There are over 22,000 voters registered in the ward for the by-election. 

Had the local government elections been held in 2017 and not 2016, there is a strong possibility that the ANC would have won this ward then. This makes it a prime pick-up opportunity for the ANC.

The DA won here by over 750 votes on the proportional representation ballot in 2016, but in 2019 there was a large shift to the ANC on the provincial ballot in the voting districts which make up this ward, with the ANC prevailing by over 2,250 votes. 

Unaville activist Sbu Ndlovu is running as an independent. 

The EFF also made good gains here in 2019, more than doubling their percentage support in the ward by getting 13% of the vote. The ACDP, Al-Jamah and Alliance For One Nation are also on the ballot here. 

Ward 130 (Emdeni South Naledi), ANC (80%), EFF (10%) 

Ward 130 is west and southwest of the centre of Soweto. Both Emdeni South and Naledi are part of Soweto. This is an ANC stronghold. 

The EFF made gains in the ward on the 2019 provincial ballot of the voting districts making up Ward 130. It got 19% of the vote, while the ANC’s vote share declined to 73%. 

It will be interesting to see if the EFF can get more than 25% of the vote in the ward. The ANC would like to return to the 80% mark. The ACDP and Shosholoza Progressive Party will compete for third place.

Sedibeng District

Emfuleni (Vereeniging)

Emfuleni has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Residents have seen their electricity cut and their water pressure reduced. Municipal bank accounts have also been frozen and the council is allegedly bankrupt. 

There are three wards being contested. The ANC is defending two safe seats, while the DA has to defend a very tricky ward. The ANC will throw everything to prove its detractors wrong and demonstrate that not only does its voters have faith in its ability to turn around Emfuleni, but that it can also win over DA-held wards.  

Ward 16 (Arcon Park Rus-Ter-Vaal), DA (58%), ANC (30%),  EFF (8%) 

The ward has two distinct areas. Arcon Park is where the DA does best. It also has two-thirds of the voters in the ward. Rust-Ter-Vaal was carried by the ANC in 2016 and 2019 – it is more competitive than Arcon Park and has less voters, giving the DA an advantage.  

The ANC closed the gap with the DA in Arcon Park in 2019. 

The DA’s vote share fell from 72% to 53%, while the ANC’s vote share increased from 16% to 24%. The FF+ got 10% of the vote in Arcon Park in 2019. It is not on the ballot. 

Will the DA be able to get these voters to the poll for them? When one looks at the overall results here in 2019 on the provincial ballot, the DA ended up with 46% of the vote and the ANC received 35% of the vote, making this a competitive race.

Another development in Ward 16 is the establishment of a new informal settlement next to Rust-Ter-Vaal. The DA has accused the ANC candidate of coordinating the invasion of municipal land. The DA claims that many of the new shacks in the informal settlement are not occupied and that a substantial number of these newly registered voters do not live in the ward. 

The EFF is the third party contesting. 

Emfuleni Ward 21 (Evaton Roshnee), ANC (64%), EFF (10%) 

This ward, near Vereeniging, has three distinct parts to it. 

Evaton and Tshepong are ANC strongholds, while Roshnee broke for the DA in 2016. Roshnee is still an area where the ANC is competitive. 

The DA got 20% of the vote in the ward in 2016, but is not participating in the by-election. The ANC and the EFF are the only parties on the ballot. 

Both parties will aim to increase their percentage vote share in the ward. With the DA not contesting, turnout in Roshnee will be something to watch. Will the ANC be able to nab those DA voters, or will the party choose to sit out this by-election?


Ward 43 (Evaton Palm Springs), ANC (78%), EFF (11%), AIC (2% )

Ward 43 is north of Vereeniging and northeast of Sebokeng. It is near the Midvaal border and the border of Emfuleni with the City of Johannesburg. It is an ANC stronghold. 

The ANC will look to reassert its dominance in the ward and the EFF will want a strong second place here. The AIC and an independent candidate are also on the ballot.


Midvaal is the only municipality in Gauteng where the DA has outright control. Its seat of government is in Meyerton.

Ward 6 (Lakeside De Deur), ANC (75%), DA (16%), EFF (8%) 

Ward 6 is an ANC stronghold. 

Lakeside is on the border of the Emfuleni municipality. It lies near the R551 road to De Deur. The battle for second place between the DA and the EFF will be the duel to watch out for here as the ANC is expected to win with ease.

West Rand district

There are two by-elections in this district of the province. Its seat of power is Randfontein.

Ward 11 (Kagiso) in Mogale City 

ANC (73%), EFF (15%), DA (10%) 

Kagiso is a large township south of Krugersdorp. This is safe ANC territory, but a loss here would affect control of the municipality. 

The ANC and IFP are in coalition in Mogale City. The ANC has 38 seats and with the IFP’s one seat, they have a majority in the 77-seat council. 

The DA (27 seats), EFF (nine seats) and FF+ (two seats) are one short of taking power from the ANC and the IFP. 

The ANC is expected to hold comfortably here, but the EFF and DA will want to do everything they can to end the ANC/IFP coalition in Mogale City. The IFP is also on the ballot. 

Ward 23 (Wedela) in Merafong City 

ANC (67%), EFF (19%) 

Wedela is a mining village southwest of Carletonville off the N12. It is near Fochville.

The ANC beat the EFF by a margin greater than 3:1 in 2016. The EFF made some inroads in 2019, getting more than 20% of the vote. The party finished second in the municipality on the 2019 provincial ballot and will want to continue its rise here with this by-election. 

The Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) will make up the numbers. 


There are three by-elections in this metro on the East Rand. This was the only metro in Gauteng where the ANC won more than 50% of the vote. The ANC will defend all three seats.

Ward 60 (Moleleki Katlehong) 

ANC (80%), EFF (12%), AIC (2%)

Ward 60 is in the south of Ekurhuleni, near the border with Lesedi (Heidelberg). This ward is on the edge of Katlehong. The ANC will want to replicate its 2016 showing, while the EFF will want to build on its modestly impressive gains in 2019. The AIC will finish third.

Ward 89 (Tembisa Winnie Mandela Hospital View) 

ANC (51%), EFF (31%)

The EFF had a strong showing here in 2016, almost bringing the ANC below 51%. Ward 89 is near Ward 102, one of the few wards in South Africa – and the only ward in Gauteng – where the EFF has a ward councillor. Tembisa is in the far north of Ekurhuleni. 

The 2019 results were very similar to the 2016 results. 

It must be noted that the EFF carried the voting district around the Cartonia Pre School in Winnie Mandela Zone 2. The African Transformation Movement (ATM), AIC, ACDP and Shosholoza Progressive Party will all hope for third place in this ward.

Ward 103 (Palm Ridge) in Ekurhuleni 

ANC (78%), EFF (8%)

Palm Ridge is in the south of Ekurhuleni in the same area as Thokoza and Katlehong.  The EFF showed growth here in 2019 and will want to finish well ahead of the chasing pack and continue to eat into the sizable ANC majority. The DA is not contesting. It came second here in 2016 and got over 20% of the vote in the Palm Ridge Community Hall voting district. Will the DA voters in this ward show up and lend their votes to another party? The ACDP and AIC will hope for the bronze medal in this ward. 

The ANC has a good chance to lay down a big marker on the road to 2021 in Gauteng. Will the ANC be able to energise their voters in Johannesburg and Emfuleni and deliver big victories on the eleventh of November? It will become clear after 11 November. DM

Wayne Sussman is an elections analyst. 



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