South Africa


Final round of by-elections: Nerve-racking for DA while ANC looks to snap up some wards

A voter casts his ballot in by-elections on 19 May 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)

Ninety-eight seats have changed hands since 9 November 2016 and 19 May 2021. A lot has happened in our politics since the EFF upset the ANC in a November 2016 by-election in Moletjie, Polokwane. This long season of by-elections has its curtain call on Wednesday, 30 June when the DA defends five seats and the ANC three. The DA will be sweating about four of these wards while the ANC will hope to avoid a banana peel in Langa, Cape Town.

UPDATE at 5pm, on 26 June, 2021: The Electoral Commission has announced that it will urgently approach the Electoral Court to postpone  the eight by-elections scheduled for Wednesday 30 June 2021 following the implementation of level 4 lockdown restrictions. 

Western Cape

Half of the by-elections taking place are in the Western Cape, with two contests in the City of Cape Town and the rest in the West Coast District.

Ward 51 (Langa) in Cape Town: ANC (47%) Ind-Mandindi (21%) EFF (16%) Ind-Mxolose (7%) Ind-Jikolo (4%)

Langa is east of the city centre, where the M5 and M7 roads meet. The ANC won more than 72% of the vote in 2016. In a by-election held late in 2020, the party’s percentage vote share fell below 50% as numerous independent candidates ate into its sizeable majority. The independent candidate who performed the best was community activist Vusi Mandindi who came second in the by-election with more than 20% of the vote. He is back and will hope to get his supporters out for what should be a low poll. 

The ANC will be hoping that the people who voted for the other independent candidates in the by-election return home and support the party. The party in Cape Town will want a strong showing here, to show Luthuli House that all is not lost in the Mother City and that the party’s fortunes will improve in the coming months. 

The EFF’s percentage vote share increased slightly in the 2020 by-elections – from 13% to 16%. This is one of three by-elections where the party will want to make its mark on Wednesday. The DA did not contest the November by-election but is on the ballot for this one. The party garnered 7% of the vote in the ward in the 2016 local government elections. 

The African Restoration Alliance (ARA) completes the field in Langa. The party was formed by a former African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) national executive committee member Jerome Swartz. 

The by-election is taking place because the newly elected councillor, Zingisile Nkangana, passed away less than five months after being elected early in 2021.

Turnout in November was 23%.

Ward 63 (Ottery Plumstead) in Cape Town: DA (83%) ANC (6%) Al Jama-ah (3%) EFF (2%) ACDP (2%)

Ward 63 is in the southern part of the city and lies on both sides of the M5 highway. It includes the sprawling suburb of Ottery, Wittebome which sits next to Wynberg, Plumstead which includes Plumstead High (which produced cricket stars JP Duminy and Paul Adams) and the suburb of Fairways. 

The DA won here by a landslide in 2016. The 2019 provincial ballot saw parties like GOOD and Al Jama-ah eat into the DA’s majority as the latter’s percentage vote share was 67%. The ANC came second in the voting districts that make up the ward with 10%. GOOD got a credible 9% and Al Jama-ah was fourth with 5%. The ANC has recruited a celebrity candidate in Dmitri Jegels, a well-known radio DJ.

Al Jama-ah will also hope to make a statement in this by-election, especially in the Ottery parts of the ward. The competition for fourth place will be between the EFF, ARA and an independent candidate, Ursula van Horsten-Schenken, who had an unsuccessful campaign here in 2016 when she stood for the Freedom Front Plus (VF+). 

The by-election is taking place because of the passing of veteran ward councillor Monty Oliver. 

Participation will be considerably lower than the 73% turnout in 2016.

West Coast District

The ANC has had much success against the DA in this sparsely populated region of the Western Cape over the past five years. It took six wards from the DA in the region between 2016 and 2021 – three in Matzikama (Vredendal) and two in Cederberg (Clanwilliam). In that period, the DA won only one ward from the ANC. The ANC has a chance to win two more wards from the DA on Wednesday. Although: the municipalities where the ANC has beaten the DA in by-elections in the past five years tend to be sparsely populated as most voters in the West Coast District live in Saldanha Bay and Swartland (Malmesbury). 

Ward 1 (Citrusdal Farms) in Cederberg: DA (52%) ANC (45%) AODC (2%)

Ward 1 is a rural area on the outskirts of Citrusdal. Part of it borders the Piekenierskloof mountain pass on the N7 national road. The ward comprises more than 100 farms where citrus and other fresh produce is grown.

The DA won by 172 votes in 2016. It was a two-horse race between it and the ANC, with the Alliance of Democratic Congress (AODC) finishing a distant third. It was even closer in 2019 when one considers the provincial ballots that make up this ward, as the DA pipped the ANC by 73 votes. The ANC will want to take its third ward from the DA in this municipality and further consolidate control of Cederberg. The race for third place will be between the EFF, the AODC, the ACDP and the ARA. 

The by-election is being held due to the death of the former councillor. Turnout in 2016 was 59%.

Ward 2 (Moorreesburg Rosenhof) in Swartland: DA (50%) ANC (39%) NCPSA (9%) EFF (2%)

Moorreesburg is on the N7 between Malmesbury and Piketberg. It is the seat of power for the West Coast District municipality. This is wheat country – one of the voting stations in the ward is the Wheat Industry Museum.

Politically speaking, Swartland used to be the safest DA municipality in the country. It lost that distinction to Stellenbosch in 2016 but still came very close to retaining that honour. There is only one competitive seat in Swartland and this is where the by-election is taking place. The DA has clear control of 10 other wards while the ANC runs up the numbers in the sole seat it controls. 

This presents a good opportunity for the ANC to find success in a municipality that has long been challenging for the party. The DA beat the ANC by 259 votes in the ward in 2016. The margin of victory was only 87 votes when one looks at the provincial ballots in the voting districts making up Ward 2. The DA dominates the town centre of Moorreesburg while the ANC wins most votes in Rosenhof, a traditionally coloured suburb. Most voters are registered in the voting station near Rosenhof. However, the DA competes strongly with the ANC there. It is less competitive in the voting district it carries. The DA will hope its supporters come out in droves in its traditional stronghold and that the turnout is enough to cover the deficit in Rosenhof.

The former ward councillor here resigned and defected to GOOD. GOOD, however, is not contesting the by-election. The race for third will be between the EFF, ARA and Sidney van Rooyen, an independent candidate. 

Turnout in 2016 was 54%.                     


There are two by-elections in the province. The ANC has to defend another safe seat in eThekwini and there will be a scrum for a DA-held seat in eDumbe in northern KwaZulu-Natal. 

Ward 98 (Umgababa) in eThekwini: ANC (87%) IFP (4%) AIC (3%) DA (3%) EFF (2%)

Umgababa is a densely populated beach town in a relatively rural part of the metro, south of Amanzimtoti, south of Durban. 

It is an ANC stronghold. The party came close to getting 90% of the vote here in 2016. However, in 2019 the EFF made inroads, getting 14% of the vote, while the ANC’s vote share fell by 10 percentage points to 77%. The EFF has made inroads in recent eThekwini by-elections. It could be harder in Umgababa as it is more of a densely populated rural area than a township in Durban. The EFF will want to get north of 15% in the by-election.

The African Freedom Revolution (AFR), a provincial party, is contesting here. It is led by former president Jacob Zuma’s pastor, Bishop Bheki Ngcobo. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) completes the field. 

The by-election is taking place because of the death of the previous councillor. Turnout in 2016 was 62%. 

Ward 5 (Nauuwkloof Mthethwa) in eDumbe, Zululand: DA (48%) ANC (32%) IFP (15%) EFF (2%)

The DA exceeded its own expectations in many areas across South Africa in 2016. Perhaps no more so than in Ward 5 in eDumbe. Ward 5 is rural and sparsely populated and has very few if any minority voters. It is east of Paulpietersburg, the seat of power in eDumbe.

The main reason the DA won this ward in 2016 was that it received an endorsement from the National Freedom Party (NFP). The NFP failed to pay its election deposit on time and did not appear on the ballot in all but one municipality in that year. This included strongholds like eDumbe. The NFP is on the ballot this time, and even the most ardent DA supporter will know that the party will not retain the ward on Wednesday. It will finish fifth, at best. 

It will be a four-way tussle to win Ward 5. The NFP will start as favourite since it won 55% of the vote in 2019 when one looks at the provincial ballots that make up the voting districts in the ward. The NFP endorsement in 2016 propelled the DA to an unlikely victory and voters forgave the NFP in 2019 and returned their faith to it. However, it can also be argued that the NFP is even weaker today than it was in 2016 and 2019. Its founder, Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi, resigned from parliament soon after the 2019 elections and the party has been battling internal strife and losing ground.  

The dark horse is the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC), which has strong roots in northern KwaZulu-Natal. It is led by PG Mavundla, a well-known Greytown businessman and a former mayor of Umvoti. He was a strong backer of Jacob Zuma. The ABC gave the ANC a fright in an Umvoti by-election, and ran the IFP close in an Nqutu by-election. The model that works for the party is to field high-profile candidates who are former mayors as ward candidates. Bonginkosi Nxusa, its candidate in the by-election, is a former NFP mayor of eDumbe. While it fell short against the ANC in Umvoti and the IFP in Nqutu, a crowded field might just be enough to carry it to victory in this ward. 

The ANC is currently the largest party in eDumbe, having been the second-largest in 2016 and 2019. It has controlled eight out of the 16 seats here since 2016 and would love to finish this term with an outright majority. The party will hope voters reward it for its stewardship of eDumbe. The last of the four challengers that will sense an opportunity on Wednesday is the IFP. The party came third in the municipality in 2016, third in the ward in 2016 and third in 2019. It will, however, look to its shock win over the ANC in a recent uPhongolo by-election and its other recent positive results in the province as signs that it has a chance here and that voters in the north of the province have placed renewed faith in it. 

The chasing pack includes the EFF, the DA, the AFR and the NFP breakaway, the National People’s Front (NPF). 

The by-election is being held because of the expulsion of the previous councillor. Turnout in 2016 was 58%. 

Northern Cape

There is one by-election taking place in the province – in the Frances Baard district, in the eastern and northeastern areas. The district includes the provincial capital of Kimberley. 

Ward 1 (Roodepan) in Sol Plaatje: DA (53%) ANC (40%) COPE (3%) EFF (3%)

Roodepan is a predominantly coloured neighbourhood north of the Kimberley city centre. Residents took to the streets in March and April to protest against poor service delivery, barricading roads.  

The DA and the ANC would have been relieved to see the candidates’ list did not include Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance (PA). McKenzie put the spotlight on Roodepan in early June, but in the end decided not to contest here and rather wait for the local government elections. Filling that void on the ballot will be GOOD. GOOD came a distant third here in 2019 when one looks at the provincial ballot results in the voting districts making up this ward, with 7% support. The party will hope to benefit from the frustrations aimed at the previous ward councillor who came from the DA and the perceived lack of attention paid by the ANC government in Sol Plaatje to Roodepan. GOOD could well play spoiler in this election. In 2019, the DA received 48% support in Roodepan with the ANC getting 39%. Victory will bestow temporary bragging rights, but defeat will bring great concern, since the PA is set to land here in October. 

The EFF completes the field. The by-election is taking place because the previous ward councillor died. Turnout in 2016 was 58%. 

Eastern Cape

There is one by-election in the province and it is taking place in the Sarah Baartman District in the western region.

Ward 3 (Tantji Hlalani Makhanda) in Makana: ANC (65% PR*) DA (29% PR) EFF (5% PR)

Makana municipality is centred on Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown). The ANC has been dominant here in the past few elections. The town has been beset by service delivery protests, and parts of it were recently shut down by aggrieved residents. The ANC has performed well in recent Makana by-elections and will want to send a message to its opponents that despite the challenges in the municipality, the voters stand firmly behind it.  Ward 3 is east of the town centre, with the bulk of the ward sandwiched between the R67 regional road and the Sun City informal settlement. 

There are two voting districts here. The DA carried the district around the Mary Waters School in 2016 and in 2019, but the ANC won the Assumption Clinic district by a landslide. The ANC will believe it can increase its percentage vote share since there are only two parties on the ballot. The DA has decided to sit out the by-election. The small field also means the EFF will see a chance to make a mark before the October local government elections. The party registered a slight improvement on its 2016 result when one looks at the 2019 provincial ballots for the voting districts, winning 5% of the total vote.

The by-election is taking place because of the death of the previous councillor. Turnout in 2016 was 50%. 

Wednesday should be a great season finale to a long run of by-elections. The DA has four very difficult seats to defend, while the ANC will want to end its by-election campaign with ward pick-ups across the country. Meanwhile, regional parties and the EFF will want to make a big exclamation point in KwaZulu-Natal. DM

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

Sussman is Daily Maverick’s elections analyst.


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  • You get the government you vite for. And this applies particularly to Makanda where the court ruled that the council of ANC thieves failed their constitutional obligations.

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