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MAY BY-ELECTIONS

EFF snatches another ward from ANC – in Mafikeng

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party president Julius Malema addresses supporters during the 2019 presidential elections manifesto launch at the Giant stadium in Soshanguve outside Pretoria, 02 February 2019. EPA-EFE/STR

The EFF followed up its by-election win a fortnight ago in Phokwane with a barnstorming victory over the ANC in Lomanyaneng in Mafikeng, North West.

The party has now picked up the same number of wards from the ANC in two weeks as it did between 2016 and 2021. At the same time, the DA had an important hold in Tshwane, in a race in which ActionSA made its by-election debut and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) made its first outing since its impressive 2021 showing. 

North West

Ward 5 (Lomanyaneng) Mafikeng in Ngaka Modiri Molema EFF 69% (36%) ANC 31% (54%) 

The setting: Lomanyaneng is south of the town centre of Mahikeng, the provincial capital of North West. Mahikeng is also the seat of the district municipality which includes the towns of Lichtenburg, Zeerust and Delareyville. 

The 2021 local government election: In a competitive contest, the ANC beat the EFF by 177 votes in a low-turnout election. The ANC underperformed in Ward 5 compared with its municipal vote tally of 57%. The EFF overperformed in Ward 5 when you consider its 25% vote percentage in the municipality. A local party, Batho Pele Party (BPP), came third in the 2021 elections with 4% of the vote. 

The by-election: The reason for the by-election was the passing of the former councillor. The ANC’s campaign was less than ideal as there was discontent and rancour over the ward candidate nomination process. Internal challenges have long plagued the ANC, but the party has in most cases still prevailed in by-elections, as volunteers and activists come together on election day to put the party first. This was not the case in Lomanyaneng. They also met a highly motivated opponent in the EFF, which ran a disciplined campaign. The EFF was also boosted by its recent win in Pampierstad in Phokwane near North West’s border with the Northern Cape. 

The EFF won the by-election by a large margin. It also came close to doubling its percentage vote share in the ward. It won a staggering 80% of the vote share in the Lomanyane Primary School District, up from 33% a few months ago. It came close to winning two-thirds of the votes at Mokgweetsi Primary School, the second district in the ward. In stark contrast, the ANC’s vote share at Mokgweetsi Primary School fell from 57% to 35%. At Lomanyane Primary School, it plummeted from 46% to 19%. 

New Mafikeng council composition: ANC 39 (40); EFF 18 (17); DA 5; F4SD 2; UCDP 2; FF+ 1; PA 1; ACDP 1; AIC 1. Total: 70.

Turnout: 42% (30%). It is encouraging to see a turnout increase in a by-election. It was considerably higher than in 2021.

Gauteng

Ward 96 (Montana Doornpoort) in Tshwane DA 45% (53%) ActionSA 22% (7%) FF+ 19% (20%) ANC 7% (9%) EFF 6% (8%) COPE 1% (<1%) ACDP <1% (1%) ARA <1% (<1%)

The 2021 local government election: The DA won comfortably in Ward 96, but lost ground to both the FF+ and ActionSA. The party won six of the seven voting districts, doing so convincingly in Doornpoort with 62% of the vote. The DA also won 55% of the vote in the two Montana voting districts. The FF+ did best in the relatively rural area of Haakdoorn where it bagged 26%, and also received the backing of 24% of voters in Doornpoort. The ANC did best in the more rural areas of Pyramid and Rooiwal, where it ran the DA close. These districts are not as vote-rich as Montana and Doornpoort. The Wallmannsthal voting district was won by the EFF, with the ANC second. It is on the outskirts of the metro and not full of voters. While ActionSA finished fifth, it would have been satisfied with where it performed best. It won 14% in one of the Montana districts and 7% in the other. 

The by-election: Hannes Coetzee was elected three times by the voters of this ward. He defected from the DA and joined ActionSA. ActionSA could have asked for little more when considering where to contest its first by-election. In this ward, opposition supporters have little fear that if they vote for a different opposition party, the ANC could come in through the backdoor. It also has a councillor with good name recognition, running a hyper-local campaign centred on Coetzee’s frustrations with the Tshwane administration’s alleged lack of attention to the sewage leaks from the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works into the local rivers, and the DA-led council’s perceived poor response to the problems at the Pyramid substation when it burnt down in 2019, which caused many power outages for the residents. Two caveats with Ward 96: it is majority Afrikaans-speaking and the 2021 election results suggested that ActionSA’s message has relatively better traction with English-speaking voters; and the ward is quite spread out and Coetzee’s name recognition would be stronger in some areas than others. 

The DA held on for a most-important win in a hard-fought by-election. Despite losing ground to ActionSA, John Steenhuisen and Tshwane mayor Randall Williams will be boosted by this result. While the DA beat ActionSA and the FF+ by a vote margin in excess of 2:1, the party lost significant ground to ActionSA in Pyramid and Rooiwal. ActionSA also surged in one Montana voting district, Baccara Street, where it won 29% of the vote, compared with the 14% it garnered in 2021. ActionSA’s issues-based campaign resonated best in Rooiwal, where it won with 55% of the vote, way up from the paltry 3% in 2021, taking the district from the DA. 

While the DA’s percentage vote share declined, it came close to matching its 2021 showing in Montana. Its percentage vote share declined in Baccara Street but rose in Thornridge School. The DA also won 72% of the vote in Haakdoorn, well up from 55% in 2021. This was at the expense of the FF+ whose percentage vote share halved from 26% to 13% as ActionSA edged it for second place in the district. The FF+ showed growth in Montana, Rooiwal and Pyramid, but it was not enough to hold onto second place in the ward. The party had the potential to turn this by-election into a three-horse race but did not do enough in places like Doornpoort and Haakdoorn. 

In 2021, there was a contest within the contest in Ward 96, with the EFF beating the ANC in Wallmannsthal. The EFF won this district again in the by-election, although it was closer this time as the ANC cut into the EFF’s majority. Despite winning the district, the EFF was unable to leapfrog the ANC in the ward. 

Turnout: 23% (49%). This is pretty standard for a Tshwane by-election.  

Eastern Cape

Ward 20 (KwaZakhele 3 Zwide 3) Nelson Mandela Bay ANC 66% (74%) EFF 16% (14%) AIM 14% (<1%) Azapo 4% (<1%)

The setting: Ward 20 comprises parts of KwaZakhele and Zwide. It is northwest of the Gqeberha city centre and north of New Brighton. The ANC’s performance in this part of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro was crucial in keeping the DA in check and ultimately being able to form a coalition to oust the DA and its partners after the 2021 elections. 

The 2021 local government election: The ANC won Ward 20 by a landslide, beating the EFF by 60% and a margin of more than 1,850 votes. The EFF finished well ahead of the other parties. The result tells us this is a very safe seat in an ultracompetitive metro. 

The by-election: Ward councillor Mzwandile Booi was shot dead while driving home in January. The reason for this by-election is nothing less than tragic, as another public representative paid the ultimate price shortly after winning an election. 

The ANC won two-thirds of the vote in this by-election but lost some of its firm footing here, while the EFF made minor inroads to hold onto second place. The Abantu Integrity Movement (AIM), a local party led by Mkhuseli Jack, came third with 14% of the vote. AIM will be very satisfied with this showing, especially after its poor performance in the local government elections. The ANC can now fill a key vacancy in the council and will hope that this helps to solidify its tenuous grip on power in Nelson Mandela Bay. 

Turnout: 21% (38%). This is in line with by-election turnouts in Nelson Mandela Bay. 

Ward 11 (Dambeni) in Ntabankulu, Alfred Nzo ANC 79% (83%) EFF 19% (13%) ATM 2% (4%)

The setting: Dambeni is a rural village northeast of Tabankulu, the seat of power in Ntabankulu. Ntabankulu is part of the Alfred Nzo District which borders KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. Its principal towns are Matatiele, Bizana and eMaxesibeni (formerly Mount Ayliff).

The 2021 local government election: The ANC won Ward 11 by a country mile in 2021, beating the EFF by more than 1,220 votes. The EFF was well ahead of opposition parties. While the ANC did lose some ground in Ntabankulu and Alfred Nzo, its losses were slight compared with other parts of the country. Alfred Nzo in general and Ntabankulu in particular will be key to the party replicating its 2019 showing in the 2024 elections. The ANC’s percentage vote share in Alfred Nzo fell slightly from 79% to 76% in 2021 compared with 2016, with the EFF increasing from 6% to 10% in 2021. 

The by-election: Voters went back to the polls because of the resignation of the previous councillor. The ANC fell under the 80% mark but still had an emphatic win, bagging more than 93% of the vote in three of the eight voting districts in the ward. The EFF will be happy with its growth in an ANC stronghold, receiving more than 30% support in two districts. The African Transformation Movement (ATM) would have wanted to do much better. The ANC in the Eastern Cape will take note of the slight decrease in percentage support but will still be confident that voters in Ntabankulu will do their part for the ANC in 2024. 

Turnout: 42% (48%).

Upcoming by-elections

The next round of by-elections will be in early June when the ANC will defend all five seats, three of them marginal. These are in Rand West City (Bekkersdal Holomisa) in Gauteng, Kareeberg (Carnarvon) in the Northern Cape and uMvoti (Mbuba KwaZiba) in KwaZulu-Natal. There will also be a key indicator on the road to 2024 with a by-election in Soweto (Lufhereng Doornkop) in Johannesburg. DM

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