Independent and EFF candidates deliver big blows to ANC in two races
It is incredibly difficult to beat the ANC in a Chris Hani District by-election, so local teacher Martha Kortman’s victory is a huge achievement.
It was a tough by-election night for the ANC as the EFF took a ward from the ruling party in Pampierstad, Phokwane in the Northern Cape, while an educator and an independent candidate won a seat from the ANC in the town of Tarkastad in Enoch Mgijima in the Eastern Cape. It was not all doom and gloom for the ANC as it prevailed in a competitive eThekwini seat, previously represented by the party. The DA held onto its ward in a very competitive race in Wolseley in Witzenberg in the Western Cape.
Ward 33 (Tarkastad, Zola) in Enoch Mgijima in Chris Hani; independent-Kortman 57% (37%) ANC 42% (38%) EFF 1% (6%)
The setting: Tarkastad is between Komani and Cradock on the R61 road. This small farming town is in the Karoo region of this sprawling municipality whose seat of power is in Komani. Enoch Mgijima Municipality is part of the Chris Hani District. There were two by-elections in Chris Hani in the last round on 16 March, when the ANC dominated the opposition, getting more than 90% in both contests. Chris Hani’s main town is also Komani, and extends to Tsomo, Cofimvaba, Cala and Cradock.
The 2021 local government elections: The ANC won the ward by a mere four votes in the November local elections, pipping an independent candidate at the finishing line. The result was set aside by a court order. The ANC councillor who won the seat in 2021 contested for it again, as did independent candidate Ntombekhaya Martha Kortman. The ANC won more than 50% of the vote on the proportional ballot in the local government elections, far ahead of the second-placed EFF (19%). The DA (11%) beat local party The Independents (10%) for third place. Comparing the proportional result in 2021 with the ward result, it is clear that Kortman took votes from the ANC, the EFF, the DA and the Independents. She was also backed by members of the South African Communist Party.
The by-election: There was no photo finish this time as Kortman won three of the four voting districts. Kortman, a teacher, won both the Zola township voting districts as well as the Tarkastad voting district previously won by the DA. The ANC won the other Tarkastad voting district. Kortman beat her ANC rival by more than 400 votes. The EFF’s vote share all but collapsed as the party’s supporters decided to get behind Kortman and ensure she won this time. Incidentally, despite the ANC losing the ward, its percentage vote share increased. This is because there were much fewer choices on the ballot this time. The ANC won one of the four voting districts, centred on Tarkastad.
The turnout was very high in three of the four districts, particularly in the Zola township where it ranged between 69% and 73%. The turnout was lowest in one of the Tarkastad voting districts where the DA and the Independents did best in 2021. Their absence on the ballot would explain the relatively low 46%.
This is clearly a setback for the ANC in a district and a province they did very well in a few months ago. It is incredibly hard to beat the ANC in a Chris Hani District by-election. This is a big achievement by Kortman. Having said that, one swallow does not make a summer in Eastern Cape politics. This by-election result could be an outlier in this province.
New Enoch Mgijima Council Composition: ANC 43 (44) DA 7 EFF 6 The Independents 5 Isanco 2 Independent-Kortman 1 (0) PA 1 ATM 1 UDM 1-Total 67
Turnout 67% (62%). A most encouraging turnout.
Ward 3 (Pampierstad East) in Phokwane, Frances Baard; EFF 56% (35%) ANC 43% (48%) PA 1%
The setting: Pampierstad sits between Hartswater and the North West border. It is just off the N18 national road. Phokwane’s jewel is the Vaal-Harts Irrigation Scheme. It also includes Jan Kempdorp. Part of Ward 3 includes farms and plots that are connected to the scheme. However, the overwhelming number of voters in the ward are in Pampierstad. Phokwane is part of the Frances Baard district which includes the provincial capital Kimberley, and towns like Barkly West and Warrenton.
The 2021 local government election: Olebogeng Tumodi won Ward 3 for the ANC in 2021 with 48% of the vote. He faced a spirited challenge from the EFF which got 35% of the vote. The margin of victory in the ward in the local government elections was 148 votes. A local party, the Phokwane Service Delivery Forum (PSDF), finished third on 7%. Tumodi was elected mayor of Phokwane after the elections. In 2021, the ANC won all 10 wards in Phokwane, which allowed it to retain an outright majority since it obtained 47% of the vote in the municipality. This left the party vulnerable in by-elections in wards such as Ward 3.
Phokwane is a troubled municipality. It had a special election in November 2020 after the entire council was dissolved. It has a history of poor service delivery, which has been exacerbated by ANC infighting in the past. Tumodi was expelled from the ANC shortly after he became mayor. He was accused of misconduct by the party for failing to attend important caucus meetings.
The by-election: Tumodi defected to the EFF. This was a relatively unique development for the EFF as it was able to field a high-profile local former ANC leader and mayor as their ward candidate. The voters of Pampierstad gave Tumodi a vote of confidence by backing him to finish the job they elected him to do in November. The EFF and Tumodi won a famous victory in the by-election, beating the ANC by 196 votes. The turnout was very encouraging in the two large Pampierstad voting districts, ranging between 64% and 68%. The Bontleng Primary School voting district was where the EFF put enough daylight between it and the ANC to flip this ward, beating the latter by 200 votes. The turnout was poor in the two voting districts on the plots. There are very few voters here and the limited choices on the ballot were the main reason for the low participation rate.
The ANC has now lost its outright majority and will be knocking on the door of the Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) to retain control of Phokwane in a coalition deal. Failing that, the EFF will need to speak to the DA, the PFSD and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and hope that the F4SD will back them. The opposition might also agree to coalesce around a party like the P4SD to send the ANC to the opposition benches.
New Phokwane council composition: ANC 9 (10) EFF 5 (4) DA 2 F4SD 2 PFSD 2 VF+ 1. Total: 19.
Turnout: 60% (43%). Considerably higher than 2021. It is good to see voters flock to the polls in a by-election.
Ward 2 (Wolseley) in Witzenberg, Cape Winelands; DA 32% (38%) ANC 29% (28%) Icosa 14% (11%) PA 13% (1%) GOOD 10% (12%) Witzenberg Aksie 1% (2%) EFF <1% (1%)
The setting: Witzenberg is one of the most competitive municipalities in the country. It has been very difficult for one party to win an outright majority. The seat of power is in Ceres. It also includes Tulbagh and the villages around the Koue Bokkeveld mountains. Ward 2 is in the small town of Wolseley, which is known for its fruit and wheat farming. Witzenberg is part of the Cape Winelands District which includes traditional DA strongholds such as Stellenbosch and Drakenstein (Paarl). (See the Ground Level Report on by-election day below)
The 2021 local government election: The DA finished as the largest party in Witzenberg, winning nine of the 23 council seats. The ANC was second with seven, while seven other parties won single seats. The election of the council leadership produced a curious result, with the ANC winning the position of speaker, the DA taking the mayoral chain and GOOD occupying the seat of deputy mayor. The DA’s hold on power was tenuous before this by-election. Ward 2 was very competitive in 2021 as the ANC ran the DA close. GOOD pipped the Independent Civics Organisation of South Africa (Icosa) for third place. The ANC and the DA shared the four voting districts in the ward, winning two apiece. The DA’s turnout at the Waboom Hall district was key in the 2021 victory as the party ultimately won 203 more votes than the ANC.
The by-election: The election took place because of the death of the former DA councillor. The DA managed a crucial hold, getting 85 more votes than the ANC. The ANC made meagre gains while the DA lost some ground. Icosa finished third as it and the Patriotic Alliance (PA) exhibited the most growth. GOOD lost some ground and slipped to fifth place in the seven-party by-election line-up. Despite winning by a lower margin, the DA ended up winning a voting district from the ANC. The DA was affected by the relatively lower turnout in its two traditional strongholds in the ward, and the PA and ANC’s gains at Waboom Hall.
Turnout: 50% (51%).
Ward 103 (Botha’s Hill Qadi) in eThekwini; ANC 44% (38%) independent-Sibisi 31% (25%) DA 22% (22%) EFF 2% (6%) IFP 1% (1%) JEP <1% (<1%) PRM <1% (<1%)
The setting: This ward has 11 voting districts which include more affluent parts of the metro such as Hillcrest and Kearsney College, and the Shongweni polo fields. It also includes parts of Hammarsdale and Peacevale and rural villages. The ward is centred on the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Botha’s Hill is on the R103 between Hillcrest and Cato Ridge on the western edge of eThekwini.
The local government election: The ANC prevailed in a competitive three-candidate race. Mthetheleli Sibisi, an independent, had a strong second-place finish, just ahead of the DA. Sibisi bagged votes from ANC, EFF, DA and IFP voters. The ANC won 47% of the proportional vote, getting almost double the number of votes as the DA (24%). The EFF won 12%, followed by ActionSA (4%) and the IFP (3%).
The by-election: The reason for this by-election is tragic. ANC councillor Minenhle Mkhize was shot dead at his home soon after being elected. It was also held at a time when much of eThekwini has been badly affected by the flooding, subsequent loss of life and large-scale destruction. As important as by-elections are, this particular by-election was not going to be top of mind for the residents of Ward 103. The ANC retained the ward by winning six of the 11 voting districts, and owing to a strong showing in Protea Farms – it won big majorities in two of the voting districts centred on this section of the ward. It also took Cliffdale township by a wide margin. The independent candidate, Mthetheleli Sibisi, won a district in Qadi by more than 240 votes, but this was not enough to close the gap with the ANC. He also won another voting district in the Qadi area. Sibisi represented this ward between 2016 and 2021 as an independent councillor. The DA won comfortably in Botha’s Hill and Shongweni, matching its showing in November. The lukewarm turnout in traditional DA areas will concern the party. The EFF struggled in this by-election, since its supporters seemed to have given their votes to the independent candidate who had a better chance of beating the ANC.
Turnout: 32% (52%).
The next round of by-elections is in a fortnight, in two metros – Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. The ANC will be defending a safe seat there while the DA will be defending a more competitive seat. This will be the first Gauteng by-election since the local government elections. The ANC will also defend a competitive seat in Mafikeng and a super-safe seat in Ntabankulu in the Eastern Cape. DM
Sussman is Daily Maverick’s elections analyst.
*This article was updated at 12.25pm on 21 April 2022 to include the eThekwini by-election results.