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Troll the polls: An A to Z of South Africa’s local government elections in November

ANC supporters at the Ellis Park Stadium in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, on 8 May. (Photo: Thulani Mbele)

Despite attempts by pretty much every party other than the DA to have the local government elections kicked to next year, the municipal polls are officially going ahead in November. Here is your A-Z of all the vital information you need at your fingertips.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

A is for ANC, the party for whom 49.3% of South Africa’s voting population is likely to opt in the local government elections, according to the most recent Ipsos poll. South African politicians love to launch parties with names beginning with “A”, perhaps wrongly assuming that ballot papers are printed alphabetically – in fact, there is a random draw for positions. In the 2021 elections you can also take your pick from, among others: Action SA (vote if you: love Herman Mashaba, hate foreigners); Al Jamal (vote if you: regularly attend mosque); African Content Movement (vote if you: really miss Hlaudi Motsoeneng in the public sphere); and the African Christian Democratic Party (vote if you: love Jesus, hate abortions).

B is for Ballot papers, for which many trees will sacrifice their lives this year. There are 257 municipalities, 276 political parties in total (see also: T), 59,272 candidates registered to contest 10,285 seats – and still more to come. In short, many, many South Africans think they could do a better job than our political incumbents. You probably do, too!

C is for Campaigning, permitted with restrictions. Thanks to Covid-19, no mass rallies are allowed, but Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has clarified that candidates may go door-to-door. Expect a lot of brave attempts to create a stirring sense of patriotic energy on social media, like the “virtual rally” held by the DA in May, which was advertised by a number of apparent kidnap victims filmed holding drooping South African flags. Feel it, it is here!

D is for DA, which Ipsos is currently tipping to take 17.9% of the vote. This estimate seems low: whatever the blue party’s recent dramas, it usually performs strongly in  municipal polls, when citizens look around at the potholes and untrimmed verges and plead for a DA official with a  toolbelt to get something done. This year, the DA faces exciting additional challenges in getting Capetonians to remember the name of their mayoral candidate (Geordin Hill-Lewis) and getting residents of Nelson Mandela Bay to overlook the curfew-breaking shenanigans of current mayor Nqaba Bhanga.

The EFF protest outside the offices of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority on 25 June 2021 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

E is for EFF, which largely went to ground during Covid-19, apart from violating lockdown regulations with ludicrous marches calling for Russian vaccines. Like their friends at the ANC, the Fighters are known to be running short on party funding – that’s “funding for their political party”, not to be confused with “funding for throwing parties”, of which they still have loads. Depressingly, they may also suffer at the polls for one of their only sensible and decent positions – namely, a call for acceptance of African immigrants (see also: X).

F is for Freedom Front Plus, a party which you write off at your peril, after it more than doubled its support in the 2019 elections from voters who find the DA not quite pro-white enough.

G is for the Good party, which is in the schizophrenic position of having a leader – Patricia de Lille – who sits firmly within President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet as Minister of Public Works. This lovely bipartisan gesture on Ramaphosa’s part will almost certainly bite Aunty Pat in the gat come election time.

The Democratic Alliance’s federal leader, Helen Zille. (Photo: Jaco Marais)

H is for Helen Zille, who technically should not be playing any public role in these elections but undoubtedly will continue to foist herself on the South African consciousness with incontinent tweeting. Most recently, she accused the Constitutional Court of pre-leaking judgments to the ANC without producing a speck of evidence – and no, she has not apologised since. Don’t be silly.

I is for IEC, the body that runs our elections, which – surprise! – actually doesn’t have an “independent” in its name. No, that’s not some kind of political statement; it’s fact. The “IEC” stands for “Electoral Commission”, and has done ever since the first democratic elections. It’s a bit like the opposite of Cope, the Congress of the People – which technically should be called COP, shouldn’t it?

IEC barrier tape at a voting station for Ward 32 during the by-elections on 11 November 2020 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

J is for Jailbirds. How many former felons will we see running for office this time around? In the run-up to the 2019 polls, Daily Maverick determined that one in five of the leaders of registered political parties had either criminal charges or court orders brought against them, professional sanctions, or compelling evidence of wrongdoing for which they had yet to be prosecuted. Mzansi: Alive with possibility!

K is for Kakpraat, which is the technical term for all verbiage flowing from the mouths of politicians in the run-up to elections.

L is for Lists, missing: The ANC had the tiniest little whoopsie when it failed to submit candidates to contest 93 municipalities by the IEC’s registration deadline. This was reportedly a result of the fact that, because the ANC is struggling to pay salaries At the moment, its staff aren’t too keen to burn the midnight oil – and who can blame them? The ANC will get another chance to submit the missing lists, however, unless a DA legal challenge succeeds.

M is for Monday. This is the first time since 1994 that elections have not been held on a Wednesday. Monday’s child may be fair of face, but Monday’s election is probably also low of turnout (See also: V).

N is for November first, the date of the 2021 local government elections. Many significant things have happened on 1 November in history, including the first public screening of the movie Titanic, which is about an expensive giant entity colliding withn an unexpected obstruction. The ANC will be hoping that this is not a metaphor.

O is for Opposition, which technically should be standing around lazily waiting to sweep free votes into giant sacks in these elections. The infrastructure of practically the whole councountry is falling apart, we saw the nation descend into complete carnage a few months ago, the economy is in the toilet and nobody has a job… And yet, you’d be an idiot not to put money on the ANC scooping the polls yet again.

P is for Patriotic Alliance, the party founded by former felons (see also: J) Gayton McKenzie and Kenny Kunene, which has had an unexpectedly promising showing in by-elections in Johannesburg lately. As Caryn Dolley recently reminded us in the pages of Daily Maverick, one of the Patriotic Alliance’s most devoted former members was the late Hard Livings gang boss Rashied Staggie. McKenzie is one of those characters that the media refers to as “colourful” because any more accurate description would not be appropriate for family consumption.

Q is for Quandary, referring to the situation many voters find themselves in when surveying the endlessly unenticing options of the ballot paper.

R is for Re-count. Just joking; we’re not America.

S is for Straight Party. Cape Town’s notorious gay-hating pastor Oscar Bougaardt posted an image on social media of himself standing for election for an entity called the Straight Party, which was just preposterous enough to be plausible. Bougaardt has since clarified that the post was a hilarious joke. Or, as the always-PC Daily Voice tabloid put it: “a fag gag”.

T is for Twenty-Ninth September, which is the date when the IEC will publish the full list of parties contesting the elections – leaving you one month exactly to pore over all 276 and filter out the Js.

U is for the United Democratic Movement, which you should vote for if you live in the Eastern Cape in a bit of a timewarp and really like Bantu Holomisa.

V is for Voter turnout, which is traditionally much lower for local government elections than national polls. In the last of these elections in 2016, turnout didn’t even reach 60%. These polls could be seeing the worst turnout ever: consider the lack of time the IEC will have had for registration and general marketing, the fact that the threat of Covid-19 will dissuade some voters, and then also see M, W and Y.

W is for What if it rains? Then voter turnout will fall further, according to most international research. By November one would not normally expect torrential rain in South Africa, but we’ll leave the last word on that to our new friend, Mr Climate Crisis.

X is for Xenophobia, which has become a troublingly popular component of many small parties’ election manifestos. The aforementioned Gayton McKenzie (see also: P) wrote a 2019 op-ed in which he warned, among other pearls: “Go to any township and see the mushrooming of kids who look Indian.” The ANC’s own mayor for Johannesburg, Jolidee Matongo, came under attack for having a Zimbabwean father. The EFF is almost alone in having a clear pan-African embrace, and may be punished for it in these elections (see also: E).

Y is for Youth, the demographic that has been punishing politicians for their depressing future prospects by declining to stand up line to vote in the past few elections, with the 2019 polls seeshowing a particularly distinct drop in youth participation. In a desperate attempt to reach the youngsters, expect to see your TikTok feeds disturbed by (probably quite embarrassing) political party advertising in the next few weeks. John Steenhuisen, now is the time to brush up on your lip-synching.

Former president Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Z is for Zuma. Much like other former party leaders (See also: H), you just know that the shadow of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma will be hanging over these elections in some way. Mostly, our prayers will be with the former president that his precarious health enables him to hobble to his nearest polling station on voting day. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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  • Love the fag-gag quip. The best thing about this election is the diversity of parties. It’s ridiculous we turn out to make our mark for any of them because we know they know we know not a single one of them will keep their promises/ lies. It’s this lying and cheating we call democracy and pay people millions to star in the porno show. Not even a cliffhanger since we all know that the ANC will win and the DA will bellyache a little louder from the sidelines. But lets get it over with and move on.

  • Given the misplaced predilection for names beginning with A … I am surprised no one has started an achtung party yet ! Maybe the EFF has colonised that space ?

    • Give up on the spectacle of JZ “hobbling” to the nearest polling station …. he will do it with style and well known ‘dance’ moves … and probably add the ‘bring me my umshuniwam’ swagger to it ! He may just forget that Fraser (the one with medical qualifications and psychiatric ones also) has decreed that he is ‘infirm’ to the extent of even being able to tie his own shoes-laces !

  • “O is for Opposition, which technically should be standing around lazily waiting to sweep free votes into giant sacks in these elections.”

    Rebecca, perhaps you should make it clear that this sentence is a metaphor and not an instruction?

    Your invitation to join the Board of the IEC is on its way if you don’t.

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