South Africa

SUPER WEDNESDAY

Outlook for the mega May by-election day in Tshwane

Lines at a voting station in Attidgeville, Tshwane. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

This is part of a series of preview articles looking at municipal government wards being contested on 19 May. There will be by-elections in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and the Free State.

Tshwane voters go to the polls in nine wards on 19 May. The party with the most seats is the DA. It will defend three seats and have great concerns about all three. The official opposition, the ANC, will defend six seats, five of which are safe. The other would have been a trickier assignment if the DA had contested it, but is now where the EFF has its best chance of making a mark.

Seven parties were elected to the Tshwane metro council at the 2016 local government elections. The DA won 93 of 214 seats, with the ANC getting 89 and the EFF finishing third with 25. Freedom Front Plus (VF+) finished in fourth place with four seats, while COPE, the African Independent Congress (AIC) and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) made up the numbers with one seat each.

A lot has happened in the metro since Solly Msimanga, the 2016 DA mayoral candidate for Tshwane, addressed a victory rally at Freedom Park a few days after the 2016 poll.

The DA is now on its third mayor, Randall Williams. The party has had a difficult relationship with the EFF, the kingmakers of Tshwane, and has been beset by infighting, including former DA Tshwane chair Abel Tau resigning as a ward councillor and defecting to Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA. The party lost voters to the VF+ in Afrikaans-speaking suburbs and failed to replicate its breakthrough in parts of Soshanguve, where it won more than 30% of the vote in 2016. 

The ANC took the disappointing 2016 Tshwane result on the chin and had a much better performance in the 2019 provincial ballot, finishing well ahead of the DA. It still fell short of cracking 50% of the vote in the metro, though.

The 2019 trends suggested that the EFF was on track to remain the Tshwane kingmaker in 2021. The VF+ more than tripled its vote share in 2019 over 2016.

The representation of just seven parties in Tshwane in 2016 says a lot about the metro and its politics.

Buffalo City only has 100 seats, but eight parties are on the council there. Nelson Mandela Bay has 120 seats, with nine parties represented, while Ekurhuleni has 10 more seats than Tshwane (224) with 11 parties represented.

That so few parties are elected on to a council the size of Tshwane suggests that regional and smaller parties battle to break through in the capital. While fourth-placed VF+ is expected to do well in 2021, other smaller parties are going to continue to battle to hold the balance of power and Tshwane politics will continue to be moulded by a resurgent ANC, a struggling DA, a growing EFF and the VF+.

Ward 3 (Danville Pretoria West) — DA (43%) ANC (36%) EFF (17%) VF+ (2%). Poll (54%)

This western ward best personifies the DA’s “over-performance” in 2016 and the ANC’s woeful showing. The DA got its supporters to the polls in working-class suburbs like Danville, West Park and Proclamation Hill, while the ANC battled to generate enthusiasm in Kwaggasrand, Atteridgeville and Elandspoort. The DA won half of the voting districts and garnered 530-odd more votes than the ANC.

This result was in stark contrast to what happened in the ward on the provincial ballot in 2019. The ANC swept all six voting districts, with the DA losing almost half of its percentage vote share. The ANC got 43% of the vote in the ward, with the DA plummeting to 24% and the EFF running the DA close for third place with 22% of the vote. The VF+ won 6%. The DA will be desperate to get those VF+ voters to back its candidate in this by-election.

The ANC will start as the strong favourite, having gone from a 530-vote deficit in 2016 to 2,050 votes more than the DA in 2019. 

There are four contestants in this by-election. Joining the big three parties on the ballot is an independent candidate, Loraine Steyn. Steyn has been backed by activists in Mmusi Maimane’s One South Africa Movement.

Ward 9 (Winterveld) — ANC (83%) EFF (8%) DA (6%). Poll (54%)

Winterveld is in the north-western corner of the metro on the North West province border. It used to be part of the Bophuthatswana homeland. Ward 9 is where the ANC performed best in 2016. It was the only ward where the party received more than 80% of the vote. The ANC knows that the path to an outright majority in the 2021 local government election starts by ensuring maximised turnout in this stronghold. 

In 2019, the EFF made some inroads in this ward, bringing the ANC under the 80% watermark on the provincial ballot, while it garnered 12% of the vote.

The ANC, EFF and the Tshwane-based Arusha Economic Coalition (ARECO) are on the ballot.

Ward 24 (Winterveld South) — ANC (79%) EFF (10%) DA (9%). Poll (53%)

This is the ward where the ANC had its second-best performance in 2016. It was one of three wards where the party got 79% of the vote in the previous local government elections. The 2019 results on the provincial ballot were similar to those of 2016, with the EFF exhibiting slight gains and getting 12% of the vote. The ward is closer to Mabopane than Ward 9.

The ANC, EFF and the Arusha Economic Coalition (ARECO) are on the ballot here.

Ward 26 (Soshanguve Block R, Block F) — ANC (67%) DA (16%) EFF (15%). Poll (54%)

Soshanguve is a large township north of Pretoria. Ward 26 is on the eastern side of Soshanguve. The ANC won more than two thirds of the vote here in 2016, with the DA edging the EFF for second place. The ANC got 73%% of the vote on the provincial ballot here in 2019, while the DA’s percentage vote share halved in this ward. 

The ANC and the EFF are the only two parties contesting this ward. The ANC will want an emphatic win in this Soshanguve ward.

Ward 30 (Ga-Rankuwa Central) — ANC (62%) EFF (20%) DA (15%). Poll (56%)

Ga-Rankuwa is on the western edge of the metro, also bordering North West. It was also part of Bophuthatswana. It is a safe ANC ward, but the ANC had smaller majorities here than in Winterveld.

The EFF came close to pocketing a quarter of the vote in the ward on the provincial ballot in 2019, with the ANC making small incremental increases. The DA lost almost half of its percentage vote share in Ward 30.

The ANC and the EFF are joined by former DA activist Rebecca Tshabalala on the ballot. Tshabalala is running as an independent. 

Ward 44 (Faerie Glen) — DA (89%) ANC (5%) VF+ (4%) EFF (2%) Poll (77%)

Ward 44 gives the election detective good clues in the case of understanding how the DA beat the ANC in Tshwane in 2016. This solid middle-class neighbourhood in eastern Pretoria had a big turnout in 2016 and the results suggest that those voters came out in droves to vote for the DA rather than the VF+.

In 2019, the DA’s percentage vote share fell to 75%, while the VF+ got 11% of the vote. This is one of the many traditional DA areas where the DA shed some support to the VF+. The VF+ has recruited former DA ward councillor Nicholas Pascoe as its candidate. The VF+ has focused all its by-election resources on Faerie Glen as it knows that a strong performance here, or even better, an upset victory over the DA, will send the DA into a tailspin. The VF+ has badly hurt the DA in North West by winning wards from them in Matlosana (Stilfontein), JB Marks (Potchefstroom) and Mamusa (Schweizer-Reneke).

A victory in Faerie Glen will damage the foundation Tony Leon built to ensure that the DA’s forerunner, the Democratic Party, used to become the official opposition in 1999. This foundation ultimately hastened the demise of the National Party. The DA has for more than 20 years had a commanding hold of suburbs like Faerie Glen in Tshwane. It will be a catastrophic blow if the VF+ makes deep inroads here in the by-election.

The ANC and EFF will also be on the ballot. 

Ward 58 (Pretoria Central Pretoria West) — ANC (43%) DA (29%) EFF (25%) Poll (41%)

Ward 58 borders Ward 3 in the western part of the city and stretches to the city centre. The ANC won the three-horse race tussle here in 2016 with the EFF finishing in third place with a quarter of the vote. In 2019, the ANC was able to garner 50% of the vote in the ward, while the EFF crept up to 30% in the ward. The DA’s vote share plummeted to 15%. The DA has decided to sit out this by-election which means it will be a two-horse race between the ANC and the EFF. The EFF knows that this ward and Ward 88 present the best chance for it to make a major statement in the Tshwane by-elections.

The ANC beat the EFF in every single voting district in 2016 and 2019. It will want a clean sweep of all the districts on Wednesday. 

Ward 88 (Soshanguve Block DD Block SS) — ANC (69%) DA (16%) EFF (14%) Poll (54%)

This is the second by-election taking place in this township north of Pretoria. Ward 88 is in central Soshanguve. The ANC won here by a wide margin in 2016, while in 2019 it breached the 70% mark on the provincial ballot in the ward. At the same time, the EFF grew to 20% support. The DA’s support in Ward 88 halved. The ANC and the EFF are the only parties on the ballot here.

The ANC will want to ensure that it has two convincing wins in the Soshanguve by-elections. Parts of the township were challenging for the party in 2016. 

Ward 92 (Arcadia Hatfield) — DA (45%) ANC (33%) EFF (18%) Poll (47%)

This inner-city ward includes the Union Buildings and its gardens, which also serve as a voting station. Another interesting landmark that serves as a voting station is the capital’s Hotel 224. Ward 92 also houses the Pretoria Art Museum and some of the city’s historic parks. The DA beat the ANC by more than 700 votes in the ward, but the ANC came out tops here by close to 1,200 votes on the 2019 provincial ballot in Ward 92.

Most voters in Ward 92 are in the large apartment blocks of Arcadia. Many of these apartment blocks border government departments and embassies. The apartment blocks are where the ANC and the EFF draw most of their voters. The DA won the ward in 2016 by ensuring many of the registered voters in the suburban section of Arcadia and Hatfield came to the polls. If the DA has any chance of retaining the ward it will need to ensure that the voters in this part of the ward are motivated to support it. The ANC will believe it has a very good chance of winning this ward off the DA. 

The DA’s ward councillor in Ward 92 was Tshwane chair Abel Tau. Tau has defected to ActionSA, but neither he nor the party will participate in the by-election. The ANC, DA and EFF are the three parties contesting here.

In conclusion, the DA will know that the chances of holding Ward 3 and Ward 92 are very slim and that the ANC will be expected to pick off these wards. This will do much to inspire the ANC in Tshwane. The DA will want to ensure that it holds Ward 44 in Faerie Glen, while the EFF will want to give the ANC a good run for its money in the Tshwane inner city and townships. DM

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