South Africa

BY-ELECTIONS

NFP makes a comeback in KZN to irk slumping ANC while IFP shows mixed performance

The IEC declaring the local government elections free and fair at the Results Operation Centre on 04 November 2021 at the Results Operations Centre in Tshwane. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

The first round of by-elections since the 2021 local government elections saw the National Freedom Party in KZN rise from near-death, the Inkatha Freedom Party lose its majority in Nongoma, but showing growth in eThekwini and Okhahlamba at the expense of the ANC, which, as some kind of compensation, will be happy with a win in Kai !Garib in the Northern Cape. 

Last year’s local government elections changed the political landscape in South Africa as the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) suffered losses, with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) showing modest gains. One of the parties which had a particularly good election was the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). Another significant development was the rise of local and regional parties. 

The first round of by-elections on Wednesday gave the ANC the opportunity to win a marginal IFP ward in Okhahlamba (Bergville) in KwaZulu-Natal and fill a vacant seat in Kai ǃGarib (Kakamas) in the Northern Cape. The Kai !Garib seat would allow the ANC to finally elect a mayor there as the council has been deadlocked since the election because of the vacant seat.

There was also a lot to play for in Nongoma where the slender IFP/EFF coalition depended on the IFP defending a seat where they pipped the National Freedom Party (NFP) in November. An IFP loss in the seat and an NFP hold in the other Nongoma by-election could allow for the NFP and ANC to approach the National People’s Front (NAPF) — an NFP breakaway party — to take Nongoma from the IFP and EFF. 

KwaZulu-Natal

Ward 101 (Westridge Cato Crest) in eThekwini: ANC 41% (48%), EFF 20% (16%), DA 22% (14%), IFP 13% (6%) African Freedom Revolution 2%.  

The ANC candidate Siyabonga Mkhize for Ward 101 was assassinated before the local government elections. The late Mkhize and the ANC still won the ward and a by-election was called for the vacant seat soon after the elections. 

While the ANC beat their nearest rival, the EFF by a margin of more than three votes to one in the local government elections, the ANC still had jitters about the by-election as they rely on numerous coalition partners to keep control of this major metro. 

Ward 101 is west of the city centre in the Berea area. The ward has five voting districts. The ANC carried three of the districts in 2021. This included the two voting districts in Westridge and the voting station centred on Cato Crest. The DA won the small voting district in Carrington Heights while local party, the Active Citizens Coalition (ACC) carried the voting station centred on the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) sports fields. 

The ACC and ActionSA were not on the ballot this time. The ANC held on for an important victory. This win allows them to fill a vacant seat on the council. It gives them more strength in the coalition, and more stability for the governing coalition. They will want to repay the faith that voters showed them in Cato Crest. 

The result will still worry the ANC. Usually, in by-elections where a candidate or councillor has been killed, there is a tendency for that party to do marginally better in by-elections. This was not the case here as the ANC lost ground to the EFF and the IFP. The DA finished second in the by-election after coming third in 2021. They had big wins in Carrington Heights and the UKZN voting district. Turnout was very low at the UKZN voting district. This probably has to do with the ACC not being on the ballot. What was clear here was that Indian voters who did show up broke for the DA and not the Truly Alliance. 

Turnout was 16% (32%)

Nongoma (Zululand District)

The IFP finished first here in 2021, winning 21 out of the 45 seats. They were unable to win an outright majority and turned to the red berets of the EFF to form a coalition. The EFF’s two seats gave the coalition a majority. The NFP had a good showing in Nongoma, finishing second with 13 seats, while the ANC fell from 13 seats to eight seats. The National People’s Front completed the composition of the council with their sole seat. 

Nongoma is north of Ulundi and east of Vryheid. It is the home municipality of the late Zulu monarch, King Goodwill Zwelithini. 

Ward 17 (Mjiza Bangumuzi) in Nongoma: NFP 45% (47%), IFP 41% (33%), ANC 13% (17%), EFF 1% (2%).

The NFP candidate who won the ward was assassinated before the election. Dumisani Qwabe died after being shot and having his car set alight. Ward 17 lies northwest of the town of Nongoma. It is just off the R618 regional road which links Nongoma with Vryheid. It is a rural, sparsely populated ward. 

The NFP beat the IFP by 284 votes here in 2021. The by-election was expected to be a two-horse race between them and the IFP. The NFP knew that a hold here was crucial if they were to have any opportunity to takeover Nongoma from the IFP. 

The NFP beat the IFP by 87 votes in the by-election. It was a very close race as the IFP finished just off the NFP’s pace. The NFP will be delighted by this hold. They not only get to fill a seat that has been vacant since the new council was formed, but they will also celebrate their victory in Ward 20. This result gives the NFP a major shot in the arm in the Zululand district of the province. The ANC and EFF will be concerned about the loss of support here as the NFP and IFP won the major lion’s share of the vote. 

Turnout was 51% (51%). This makes sense for a high stakes by-election. 

Ward 20 (Bungazeleni Manzimakhulu) in Nongoma: NFP 37% (37%), IFP 37% (38%), ANC 24% (19%), EFF 3% (4%).

Ward 20 sits west of Nongoma, on the R618 road which links Nongoma with the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Mtubatuba. The ward is on the outskirts of Nongoma in a sparsely populated part of the municipality.

The IFP beat the NFP by a mere 24 votes in the 2021 local government elections. The IFP squeaked home and this would put a lot of pressure on the party as a hold here would ensure its coalition kept control of Nongoma. A loss here would mean that the NFP had a path to unseating the IFP and forming a new governing coalition. 

The IFP candidate who won the ward in November sadly died before the election could take place. 

The NFP pipped the IFP at the post. This by-election showed how every vote counts as the NFP received nine more votes than the IFP. Both parties ended up very close to where they did in 2021 with the IFP shedding the smallest of ground. This was enough to give the NFP a famous victory and the first ward flip in the 2021-2026 period of by-election activity. 

The ANC will be encouraged by their showing in the by-election. They won a voting district and had a credible third-place finish. 

This result means that the NFP and ANC can now approach the NAPF to work together to remove the IFP and EFF from power and form a new governing coalition. The NAPF are the kingmakers in Nongoma and will no doubt be approached by the IFP and EFF as well. 

Turnout 51% (49%)

Ward 6 (Bonjaneni) in Okhahlamba in uThukela: IFP 58% (48%), ANC 27% (39%), Apemo 10% (3%), NFP 4% EFF 1% (3%).

The ANC lost its outright majority in Okhahlamba in the 2021 local government elections. It lost almost half its seats, falling from 15 seats to eight seats. The party returned to power by forming a coalition with NFP breakaway party African People’s Movement (Apemo), who won six seats and the NFP which garnered two seats. This allowed them to form a relatively stable coalition with 16 out of the 29 seats. The IFP finished first in Okhahlamba with a haul of nine seats. 

One of the indicators of why the IFP finished first here in 2021 is the cause of the unique reason for this by-election. The elected ward councillor did not just win Ward 6 but won another ward in the municipality as well. The IFP would not have expected the councillor to win both wards. The councillor had to resign one of the seats and decided to vacate Ward 6. 

Bonjaneni is east of Bergville and lies close to the Royal Natal National Park. The seat of power in Okhahlamba is in Bergville. The municipality is the gateway to the Northern Drakensberg.

The IFP beat the ANC by just over 170 votes in 2021. The ANC knew that this was their best pickup opportunity and a chance for them to start changing the narrative about the party in KwaZulu-Natal. A win here for them would also see the governing coalition be even more stable and the ANC putting further light between it and the second-largest party in the coalition, Apemo. Apemo hold the mayoral chain in the municipality. A win for the ANC would have made them the largest party in the council. 

This was also an interesting test for Apemo. The party did very well across the municipality in 2021, but they finished a very distant third here, finishing well behind the IFP and the ANC. They would have hoped that their party’s holding of the mayoral chain will generate more goodwill to the party. 

The IFP had an impressive win here. They beat their nearest rival, the ANC by a margin greater than 2:1. They won every single voting district in the by-election and sent a reminder to the ANC/Apemo/NFP coalition that more voters in Okhahlamba are looking to the IFP as the best bet in the municipality.

The result for the ANC was disappointing as it lost votes to the IFP, Apemo and the NFP. Apemo will be happy with their growth in this by-election. 

Turnout was a very good 57% (50%)

Northern Cape

Ward 2 (Marchand Cillie) in Kai !Garib in ZF Mgcawu: ANC 59% (51%), Hope For the Future 37% (26%), EFF 4% (6%)

Kai !Garib includes the towns of Kakamas, Keimoes and Kenhardt. It plays host to the Augrabies Falls and lies in the fertile lower Orange River region. 

Ward 2 includes the settlement of Marchand which is northwest from Kakamas on the road to the Augrabies Falls. Marchand is raisin country.  Cillie lies just north of the Orange River and Kakamas. 

The ANC won this ward in November, but their candidate sadly passed away before the elections. The council was hung after the election as the ANC could not fill this seat. This by-election breaks the deadlock. The ANC won 10 out of the 19 available seats in the local government election by winning every ward, despite only winning a total of 44% of the vote. Hope For the Future (HFTF), a local party came second with four seats, while the DA won three seats, the EFF two and the Freedom Front Plus (VF+) picked up a single seat. If the ANC wins, they retain their outright majority and elect a mayor. If the ANC loses this seat, expect the opposition parties to coalesce behind HFTF. 

The ANC won this ward by getting a high turnout in Marchand and beating the DA and HFTF by a big margin. HFTF won the Cillie voting district. It was not enough to close the gap between it and the ANC in Marchand. HFTF hoped to lure the DA voters across in this by-election as the DA were not on the ballot. The DA got 15% of the vote in 2022. 

The ANC will be very satisfied with this result. They not only increased their percentage vote share but also won the Cillie voting district off HFTF. They can also now elect an ANC mayor.  There are many who raise doubts about the ANC especially after their poor showing in the 2021 local government elections, but results like this show that the party still has the ability to inspire voters in many parts of the country. HFTF will also be encouraged by their growth here but will wonder how they lost the Cillie voting district. It will hope to be an effective official opposition in council.  

Turnout 59% (69%)

Conclusion

The big winners of the first round of by-elections were the NFP. The party will now proceed with coalition negotiations and hope that it can install an NFP mayor in Nongoma. The party was written off after the 2016 candidate registration debacle and poor showing in the 2019 elections but they showed resolve in the 2021 local government elections and managed to hold on to a marginal seat it won in 2021 and took a super marginal seat off the IFP. 

The IFP will be most concerned about their future control of Nongoma. This is a very important municipality to the IFP. It was the narrowest of losses but a loss is a loss. Despite the Nongoma angst, the party had good growth in eThekwini and Okhahlamba. 

The ANC will be very happy with its win in Kai !Garib, but the returns in eThekwini and Okhahlamba will concern them. There is a lot of work to be done by the party in KwaZulu-Natal. 

Local parties who did well in 2021 did well in this round of by-elections. Parties like APEMO and HFTF put the case forward last night that they were anything but one hit wonders. DM

Gallery

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  • Most polite article Wayne! The eThekwini result by far the most significant. Slowly but surely the ANC are loosing voters. Bar a miracle of some sorts, the chances of the ANC holding on as the governing party is slipping away. Even a 40% vote in 2024 now begins to look most unlikely.

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