2021 Local Elections

2021 ELECTIONS

Mmusi Maimane touts success of ‘independent’ candidates as black eye for big party politics

Mmusi Maimane said that 450,000 votes had gone to 'independent' candidates and movements during One South Africa's press briefing on Wednesday 3 November 2021. (Photo: Karabo Mafolo)

About 450,000 people have voted for contenders from outside of the ANC, DA and EFF and community forums across the country so far, said the leader of One South Africa Movement at a press briefing on Wednesday.

By 10am on Wednesday, independent ward candidates and community forums collectively got 450,000 votes across the country, said Mmusi Maimane, the leader of One South Africa (OSA) at a media briefing in Cape Town.

“This means, independents, as a voting bloc, are now larger than political parties Cope, VF+, ACDP, UDM, ATM, PA, Good and the NFP — and only trail the ANC, DA, EFF and IFP in real numbers — at approximately 4% of the national vote,” said Maimane. 

This year’s elections had a historic low voter turnout — it stood at 46.68% nationally by Wednesday.

In 2016, 865 independent candidates contested the local government elections, according to the IEC. This year, that number went up to 1,546.

OSA supported 12 movements and 250 candidates across the country.

By Wednesday afternoon, Mudzuli Rakhivhane — OSA’s spokesperson — said that only two of the movements they supported had won seats. These are Cederberg Eerste and Knysna Independent Movement. 

With the independent ward candidates, they were projected to gain three or four seats. Rakhivhane said that she was still waiting for results which were slowly coming in.

Pointing out the success of some of the movements OSA supported, Maimane mentioned Cederberg Eerste in the Western Cape. Cederberg Eerste won 27.5% of the vote. In Knysna, the Knysna Independent Movement won 7.9% of the vote “and will likely play kingmaker going forward,” said Maimane. 

“The people have rejected the big political parties, now the community will be the kingmaker,” said Maimane. 

As to how the OSA-backed movements and independent ward candidates will negotiate coalitions, Maimane said those movements and candidates will have to assess whether their coalition partners will centre the people’s interests. 

“There needs to be shared values [when it comes to coalitions] and those values need to be about the people’s interests,” said Maimane. 

“Coalitions at local government are about electing the executive and passing budgets. I said to the associations that they must get their mandate from the community. If you’re in Soweto and people say they want electricity, then you need to prioritise that,” said Maimane.

Maimane, who was the DA leader from 2014 until he resigned in 2019, said that he was familiar with coalitions and found it unacceptable that people would often negotiate for seats and the corner office. 

Although Maimane has said that OSA is a movement that backs independent candidates, elections analyst Wayne Sussman said that OSA “is slightly different because they’ve gotten behind regional parties that don’t have affiliation with political parties. These are not independents, independents are people who represent themselves and possibly the community”. 

At the briefing, Maimane didn’t make a distinction between independent ward candidates and OSA-back independent ward candidates. Commenting on this, Sussman said: “Maimane can be proud of Cederberg Eerste’s results in Cederberg and Knysna Independent Movement’s results but he can’t claim to speak for all the independent candidates. He’s obviously trying to get a following because he wants to run in 2024”. 

Although the results are still coming, Maimane said that the results that have come in so far have made OSA confident that their “pilot project has laid the foundation and sowed the seeds for elections to come” said Maimane. 

According to Maimane, the roadmap to the 2024 national and provincial elections had been established.

“We are fast-tracking our efforts to ensure direct elections are in place before the next national elections as required by the Constitutional Court, said Maimane. 

Michael Louis, OSA’s chairperson said OSA’s legal team, had served papers on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, giving Parliament seven days to communicate the process envisaged by Parliament to change the electoral laws in line with the Constitutional Court’s New Nation Movement judgment.

“Failure to do so will leave us with no choice but to lodge a contempt of court application,” said Louise. 

The Direct Elections Bill “will make our electoral system more legitimate and representative, and in turn will professionalise and depoliticise government,” said Louis.

Louis also announced that OSA will launch the Independent Candidate Association (ICA) later this month. The association will be the custodian of all independent candidates standing for elections in national, provincial and local government as well as the custodianship of training, best practices, accountability, values and ethics, said Louis.

“The ICA would perform the same functions as the Law Society of South Africa and the Health Professions Council of South Africa do for the lawyers and doctors, respectively. The body wouldn’t be an employer, but rather a governing body of sorts, professionalising public service,” said Louis. DM

Note: Strictly speaking, an independent candidate is somebody who runs with no connection to any political party, according to Sussman. You can only vote for them on the ward ballot, as they will not appear on the proportional representation ballot. Parties that tend to run in only one municipality generally have a candidates’ list for both the ward list and the PR list. They will try to contest all seats in the municipality to maximise their votes. Unlike an independent, the councillors elected will be beholden to the party and its rules

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