South Africa


Western Cape Preview: George, Knysna and Saldanha Bay are key battlegrounds 

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

There are 11 wards being contested in the Western Cape on 11 November. The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be defending nine wards and the ANC two wards. The stakes will be highest in George and Knysna where councils could be tweaked or even changed. 

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

The DA retained outright control of the Western Cape in 2019, but returned to power with two fewer seats, winning 24/42 seats. The party’s percentage vote share declined from 59% to 55%. 

The ANC lost two seats, winning 12 in the legislature. Its percentage vote share fell from 33% to 29%. 

The EFF finished third in the province, doubling its seat count to two, and doubling its vote share percentage from 2% to 4%. 

GOOD, the Freedom Front+ (FF+) and Al-Jamah were new entrants into the legislature with one seat each. The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) retained its seat in the legislature. 

Between January 2019 and March 2020, the ANC won three seats off the DA in the West Coast district. It won two seats off the DA in Matzikama (Klawer and Koekenaap Bitterfontein and one off the DA in Cederberg (Clanwilliam). 

The ANC also won a former independent-held seat in Knysna (White Location Flenters). The DA won three wards off the ANC in Bergrivier (Bo-Piketberg Redelinghuys), Hessequa (Heidelberg Slangrivier) and Swellendam (Barrydale). 

Garden Route district

The DA was in control of six of the seven municipalities in this corner of the Western Cape, winning outright majorities in places like George, Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn. 

The party was also in coalition in Knysna, Bitou (Plettenberg Bay) and Hessequa (Riversdale). The party lost power in Knysna and Bitou after their coalition partners ditched them for the ANC. 

The DA has a chance in this round of by-elections to win back power in Knysna, but also has to defend four seats in George and keep control of that key municipality.


The DA expelled former mayor Melvin Naik from the party after a report fingered him for allegedly taking kickbacks from a tender. 

Three of the by-elections are taking place here because three ward councillors defied party instructions in a matter pertaining to taking action against those accused of financial misconduct. They had their membership terminated. 

A new mayor, Leon Van Wyk,was elected in May. The DA currently has 28/52 seats on the council. This means it can afford to lose one seat and still retain outright control. 

If the party loses two seats, the council will be hung and the DA will turn to either the ACDP or the FF+ to form a governing coalition. 

If the DA loses three seats in this round of by-elections, it will need to form a coalition with both the FF+ and the ACDP to retain control. 

If the DA gets wiped out on Wednesday and loses all four seats, it will need the support of the ACDP and the FF+ to achieve a hung council. If one of those parties were to desert the DA, the opposition would take over George. 

It is unlikely that the DA will lose three or more seats, but the risks are still high for the party in the third largest municipality in the province. 

Ward 8 (Parkdene) 

DA (67% PR*), SAC (13% PR), ICOSA (6% PR), ANC (5% PR), EFF (2% PR), PBI (2% PR)

Parkdene is a neighbourhood south of the centre of George. The councillor in ward 8 was one of the DA councillors who had their membership terminated. 

The DA is fielding former mayor Bazil Petrus as their candidate. Petrus returned to the DA after serving as the leader of a local party, South African Civics (SAC). Petrus endorsed GOOD in the 2019 elections. 

Petrus deregistered SAC, which led to something very rare taking place – with one of the council seats falling away in George, the area now has only 52 seats on the council instead of 53. 

Petrus’s SAC came second on the proportional representation (PR) ballot in this ward in 2016. The DA hopes he will get those former SAC voters behind him. 

When one considers the 2019 provincial results in the ward, the DA’s percentage share dipped below 60%, with the ANC getting 14%, local party, Plaaslike Besorgde Inwoners (PBI) garnering 10% of the vote and GOOD finishing fourth with 8% of the vote. 

These three parties are expected to give the DA its biggest challenge in the ward. Other contestants are the EFF, the FF+, an independent and the African Progressive Movement (APM). 

Ward 14 (Pacaltsdorp Rosedale) 

DA (53%), PBI (17%), ANC (13%), EFF (2%)

It’s this ward where the DA is most vulnerable in George.  It might have finished far ahead of the competition in 2016, and again on the provincial ballots in 2019, but the community was deeply unhappy with the former ward councillor, who was expelled from the party. 

Pacaltsdorp and Rosedale are in the southern part of George. There are five parties here who want to take advantage of the residents’ dissatisfaction with the DA. These include determined challenges from PBI (the party which came second here in 2016 and in 2019), GOOD and the ANC. The FF+ and EFF complete this field. 

Ward 17 (Conville Rosemoor) 

DA (63%), ANC (15%), PBI (3%), EFF (2%)

Conville and Rosemoor are in the east of George. 

The DA does much better in the smaller district of Rosemoor. In 2016, they got 16% more percentage points in Rosemoor than Conville, and that number was 18% in 2019. 

The DA will want to ensure it wins Rosemoor by a substantial margin again to prevent parties like PBI, GOOD and the ANC from giving it a scare. 

In 2019, the DA got just over 50% of the vote in Conville. The ANC got 17% of the vote there in 2019, with the PBI just behind them with 15%. 

The opposition knows they have to reduce the DA’s vote share considerably to put this DA ward in jeopardy.

This is the only by-election in George where the councillor was not expelled. 

There is a staggering number of candidates on the ward 17 ballot, with voters having 11 candidates to choose from. Apart from the abovementioned, there is also the FF+, the EFF, the African Independent Congress (AIC), an independent, the African Progressive Movement (APM) and Al-Jamah contesting.

Ward 27 (Pacaltsdorp) 

DA (56%), PBI (19%), ANC (12%), EFF (3%), VF+ (1%)

PBI were the runners-up here in 2016 and did even better in 2019, winning 27% of the vote on the provincial ballot. The party will be hoping it can attract disgruntled DA and ANC voters in this ward, and give the DA a serious run for their money. 

The DA beat the PBI by a margin of 2:1 in ward 27 in 2019. 

The by-election is taking place in ward 27 because the previous councillor was expelled from the DA. 

Pacaltsdorp is in the southern part of George. The ANC and GOOD finished well behind PBI here in 2019. The FF+, EFF and APM are also on the ballot in ward 27. 


The DA was able to form a coalition and govern in the battleground municipality of Knysna. 

The municipality has long been a tug-of-war between the ANC and the DA. Two DA councillors, Mark Willemse and Peter Myers, worked with the opposition and passed a motion of no confidence in mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies. 

Willemse was elected as the new mayor with the assistance of the ANC and other opposition in Knysna. 

Peter Myers eventually resigned as councillor and Mark Willemse was expelled from the DA. With two DA seats vacant, elections were held and Ricky Van Aswegen from the Congress of the People (COPE) was crowned mayor. Van Aswegen was backed by the ANC and the Knysna Unity Congress (KUC). 

If the DA retains both these wards and returns to 10 councillors, it will approach the ACDP to form a new coalition and take back power in Knysna. 

In order for the DA to return to its 2016 total of 10 out of the 21 seats on the Knysna council, it will need to face off against Mark Willemse and local party, the Knysna Independent Movement (KIM). 

Knysna is the hometown of Western Cape premier Alan Winde. 

(See also our report here)

Ward 9 (Leisure Island)

DA (93%), ACDP (3%)

This is one of the safest DA wards on the Garden Route and it is surprising that the party had to dispatch leader John Steenhuisen to the ward to shore up support. 

Unlike the ANC, the DA has historically not struggled against former party councillors who run against it as independents. Former mayor Mark Willemse wants to rewrite the script and win back his ward as an independent. Willemse seems to have the support of the Knysna Independent Movement (KIM). 

This is the only ward the ANC will not be contesting on Wednesday. 

If Willemse beats the DA here, the DA will need to find an additional coalition partner over and above the ACDP. If Willemse wins the ward, he will be able to give the ANC/COPE/KUC alliance the vote to secure a governing coalition of 11/21 seats on the council. 

Leisure Island is south of the centre of Knysna. The ward includes Bracken Hill, a small district near the border of Bitou (Plettenberg Bay). 

The EFF will make up the numbers in this contest. 


DA (86%), ACDP (7%), ANC (2%), VF+ (2%)

The DA beat the ACDP here by almost 80 percentage points in 2016. It dominates in this ward in the heart of Knysna. 

The biggest challenge to the DA is set to come from the Knysna Independent Movement (KIM). KIM got 25% of the vote in a by-election in 2019. It is a new party which gave the DA cause for concern in its first outing. 

KIM will do all it can to win a seat on the Knysna council and hold the balance of power in the municipality. The FF+, ANC and EFF will compete for third place in this by-election. 

West Coast district

This is a bittersweet district for the DA. 

It includes Swartland (Malmesbury) which for many years was the municipality where the DA achieved its highest vote share percentage in the country. 

At the same time, this is where, in the space of five months, the party lost three wards to the ANC. Admittedly, those wards were in municipalities where the DA is less entrenched, but by-elections for the DA on the West Coast have been a recurring nightmare in recent times. 

Ward 13 (Louwville Vredenburg) in Saldanha Bay 

DA (72%), ANC (18%), EFF (2%)

Louwville is a neighbourhood of Vredenburg, just east of the centre of town. It is on the R45 which links Vredenburg and Langebaan. 

Former ward councillor Sucilla Van Tura defected from the DA to GOOD and hopes to put GOOD on the West Coast map in this by-election. 

The DA beat the ANC by a margin of 4:1 here in 2016. 

In 2019, the DA lost some votes to GOOD here as it ended up with 68% of the vote, while the ANC received 17% of the total vote in Ward 13 on the provincial ballot. 

GOOD came third here with 5%.

GOOD is hoping that Van Tura will propel the party in the ward. The ACDP, EFF and AMP are also contesting here. 

Cape Winelands district

There is one by-election in this part of the province. 

The district also includes Stellenbosch and Breede Valley (Worcester). The largest municipality is Drakenstein, which includes Paarl and Wellington. 

Ward 3 (Northern Paarl Windmeul) in Drakenstein 

DA (78% PR), ANC (11% PR), EFF (2% PR)

This is a safe DA ward but the FF+ are targeting it to make their mark in the Western Cape during this round of by-elections. 

The DA’s percentage vote share in the ward fell to 74% in 2019, with the FdF+ getting 4% of the vote. 

The ward follows the Noord-Agter Paarl road and is on the outskirts of Paarl. 

The EFF and ANC are also on the ballot in ward 3. 

City of Cape Town

Ward 14 (Kuils River Blackheath) 

DA (81%), ANC (13%), EFF (3%)

Kuils River is on the eastern periphery of the city. 

The DA comfortably won six of the seven voting districts here in 2019, but did lose some support to the ACDP and GOOD. 

The areas where the DA does well are Kuils River and Blackheath. The ANC wins in the Happy Valley part of the ward. 

This will be the by-election where the ACDP hopes to make the biggest dent in the DA’s support and prove itself as an alternative to the DA. 

The EFF, AIC and Democratic Independent Party (DIP) are also on the ballot. 

Ward 51 (Langa) in Cape Town 

ANC (72%), EFF (13%), Ind-Nkanyuza (2%)

Langa is a township east of the city centre, where the M5 and M7 meet. 

The EFF made slight gains in this ward in 2019, but the ANC held onto its support base from 2016. 

The EFF will want to get over 20% of the vote in this by-election.

There are four independent candidates running, including William Mxolose, a former ANC councillor in Cape Town, community leader Vusi Mandindi, social activist Balise Jikolo and returning independent candidate Victor Nkanyuza. 

GOOD and AIC are also on the ballot.

Ward 88 (Philippi Phola Park) 

ANC (71%), DA (19%), EFF (8%)

This ward in Philippi sits between the R300 and Settlers Way. Most of the voters are in Phola Park. 

The DA carries the Heinz Park voting district, but the ANC wins the remaining five districts at a canter. 

Looking at the 2019 results in this ward, the DA lost almost half its percentage vote share, getting 11% of the vote, while the EFF climbed to 13% in the ward. 

The ANC largely held its own in 2019. 

The race for fourth place will be between the African Transformation Movement (ATM), the National Freedom Party (NFP) and new KwaZulu-Natal-based party, the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC). DM

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

Wayne Sussman is an election analyst.



Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

No Comments, yet

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted