EFF and DA stun ANC in two wards, but ruling party hangs on in Soweto and KZN wards
The EFF and ActionSA may have come up just short in Soweto, but in nearby Rand West City (Bekkersdal) the former shocked the ANC, while in the town of Carnarvon in the Northern Cape the DA took a ward off the ANC in a high-turnout by-election.
Ward 53 in (Lufhereng, Slovoville) in Soweto, JHB. ANC 32% (59%) EFF 24% (16%) ActionSA 22% (13%) Independent-Shongwe 18% DA 4% (3%).
The setting: Ward 53 is in the far west of the City of Johannesburg on the edge of the border of the metro. It could be argued that the by-election in this ward and the by-election held on the same day in the nearby Rand West City ward are more of an indication of what voters in the west of the province might be thinking rather than just voters in Soweto. The Harmony Doornkop Gold Mine looms large in this ward, giving it a mining-town feel. The ward has four different areas, and most voters are in Lufhereng, although voting patterns are not consistent there. The patterns are more consistent in Doornkop, which has the second-largest voter share in the ward. This is where the ANC won with a healthy margin in the past two elections. Slovoville is the third-largest section in the ward, abutting the gold mine, closely followed by Dobsonville Gardens, a more established part of Ward 53, where homes tend to be bigger.
The 2021 local government election: The ANC finished well ahead of its rivals here. However, its percentage in the ward was down 12% compared with the 2019 provincial ballot (71%). ActionSA made a big splash, finishing third and hurting the ANC in the process. The race for second was a fascinating contest as the EFF narrowly beat ActionSA on the ward ballot (the main mode of comparison for this ward), while ActionSA edged the EFF for second place on the proportional representation (PR) ballot. In Lufhereng, ActionSA made inroads at the expense of the ANC and the EFF. It won more than 20% of the vote in Lufhereng Extension 5 and 6, where the ANC has been most vulnerable in the past and where the EFF did best in 2019. The latter finished second in Extension 5 and 6 with 28% of the vote. In the other two Lufhereng voting districts ActionSA was second.
In Doornkop, the ANC’s losses were more guarded. ActionSA finished behind the EFF in both Doornkop voting districts. In Slovoville, the ANC saw its vote share fall from 79% in 2019 on the provincial ballot to 62%, a sharp drop caused by the party losing votes to ActionSA and two smaller parties that are not on the ballot for the by-election. However, ActionSA struggled the most in this area, as it finished with 5% in the district.
In Dobsonville Gardens, the ANC and the EFF lost ground to ActionSA, which claimed a credible third place with 13% for the district. The ANC’s percentage vote share fell from 68% in 2019 to 57%, while the EFF’s dropped from 24% to 16%.
The DA finished fourth here in 2021 with 3% of the vote, down from 6% in 2019.
The by-election: The reason for the by-election is that the previous ward councillor, Ntaolo Mofokeng, was shot dead in early March.
ActionSA, the EFF and the DA invested a lot of time and resources in their attempt to wrest a seat from the ANC in symbolic Soweto. Herman Mashaba, Johannesburg mayor Mpho Phalatse and EFF secretary-general Marshall Dlamini made numerous visits to the ward. This was in stark contrast with the ANC, which always shows up for by-elections. It is known for its ability to put differences aside and show up and bring its voters to the polls. This was strangely absent in this by-election. Another thorn in the side of the ANC was independent candidate Mbhekeni Shongwe. Shongwe has links to the ANC and is a tavern owner in the ward with support in Slovoville.
The ANC won the by-election by 462 votes, but saw a sharp decline in support. Slovoville broke for Shongwe in the by-election as he won 56% of the vote. The ANC’s percentage vote share fell from 62% to 19% here.
In Dobsonville Gardens, the most established part of Ward 53, the ANC vote share fell from 57% to 34%, while ActionSA surged from 13% to 30% and the EFF grew from 16% to 28%, with the DA obtaining 8% of the vote, compared with the 5% it won here in 2021. Doornkop has two voting stations with most voters centred on the Klipvalley School. Voters left the ANC for both the EFF and ActionSA here as the EFF got 40% of the vote, up from 14% in 2021, while ActionSA received 37% support, up from 13% in 2021. The ANC settled for third as its vote share collapsed from 62% to 16%. The DA grew from 3% to 6% in Doornkop.
Lufhereng was where the ANC came out trumps and did enough to retain this Soweto ward. Lufhereng Extension 5 and 6 would have been the part of Lufhereng where the EFF would have circled the map with a red marker, but the ANC’s support held here at 40% from the 41% it got in 2021. ActionSA affected the EFF here as it grew from 21% to 37%, while the EFF’s vote share fell from 28% to 19%.
The other two Lufhereng voting districts saw the ANC’s support decline from the two-thirds mark to below 60%. At Lufhereng Secondary School, the party’s vote share fell from 67% to 52%. Despite these diminished returns, it was able to win these two districts by enough of a margin to ensure it held on for a crucial victory.
What is clear now is that while Soweto still leans towards the ANC, it is no longer an impenetrable stronghold and there is much for the party to do here and the west of the province to reconnect with voters it has lost.
Turnout: 32% (37%).
Ward 29 (Bekkersdal, Holomisa) in Rand West City, West Rand: EFF 55% (25% PR*) ANC 40% (59% PR) DA 4% (6% PR) Azapo 1% (1% PR)
The setting: Ward 29 is centred on Bekkersdal township, which is northeast of Westonaria between that town and Randfontein. Most voters are based in the Holomisa part of the ward, which also includes the Vezinwayo and Spooktown areas in Bekkersdal.
The 2021 local government election: The ANC was given a major scare here when an independent candidate, Nokothula Ntlokwana, won 34% of the vote and the ANC’s vote share fell below the 5% mark. She won the Holomisa voting district, and the ANC needed to run up the numbers in the other two districts in the ward. She hurt both the ANC and the EFF on the ward ballot. On the PR ballot, the ANC won just under 60% of the vote, as the EFF came in second with a quarter of the vote. The DA got the bronze medal here. The Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) and the Patriotic Alliance struggled here in 2021. While the ANC beat the EFF by a margin greater than 2:1 in 2021, its vote share fell from 76% in 2019 to 59% in 2021. The EFF made good strides here, more than doubling its percentage support when comparing the 2019 provincial ballot with the 2021 PR ballot.
The by-election: The previous ward councillor died in a car accident. Independent candidate Ntlokwana decided to sit out the by-election.
The EFF shocked the ANC in this Bekkersdal seat by getting 178 more votes than the ruling party and recording a famous by-election victory. The EFF surged in vote-rich Holomisa, doubling its percentage support in the district, from 35% to 70%. The ANC saw its support fall from 46% to 29%.
The ANC was able to retain the Vezinwayo informal settlement district and the Spook Town informal settlement district, but it was not by a large enough margin to blunt the EFF’s impressive gains in Holomisa. At Vezinwayo, the ANC’s percentage vote share decreased from 73% to 51%, while the EFF made big strides with a jump of 18% to 41%. Spook Town was similar, with the ANC’s percentage support dropping from 72% to 52% and the EFF growing from 11% to 34%
It is clear that supporters of popular independent candidate Ntlokwana did not come back to the ANC for the Rand West City by-election.
Between 2016 and 2021, the EFF won two by-elections against the ANC. In 2022, the EFF has taken three consecutive wards off the ANC – Phokwane (Pampierstad) in the Northern Cape, Mafikeng (Lomanyaneng) in North West and now Bekkersdal. The party also win its first ward off the ANC in a Gauteng by-election.
The new Rand West City council composition is ANC 31 (32) DA 16 EFF 12 (11) Freedom Front Plus 3 Patriotic Alliance (PA) 2 Azapo 1 Randfontein People’s Party (RPP) 1 AIC 1 IFP 1 ACDP 1. Total: 69.
The PA and AIC work with the ANC in Rand West City and have mayoral committee positions. The ANC will need to ensure that they have the backing of either the RPP or AZAPO to retain control of Rand West City as the loss of the seat means they now only have 34 out of 69 seats.
Turnout 34% (33%)
Ward 4 (Carnarvon) in Kareeberg, Pixley Ka Seme: DA 43% (13%) ANC 32% (33%) EFF 20% (22%) KCM 4% (24%) PA 1% (DNC). VF+ (8%) did not contest.
The setting: Kareeberg is one of those municipalities that you won’t find by chance or by taking a wrong turn, for it is not on a national road. There are good reasons to visit though, including the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope and the finest corbelled houses in the country. You will also find Blikkies Bar in Carnarvon, which boasts more than 5,000 bottles of beer on the wall. Which party will be celebrating in Blikkies Bar, and who will be drowning their sorrows after this by-election?
Kareeberg, which also includes the small town of Vosburg and the settlement of Vanwyksvlei, is part of the Pixley Ka Seme district which includes De Aar, Prieska, Britstown, Colesberg and Victoria West.
Ward 4 has only one voting station, in the southern part of the town, around Carnarvon High School and close to the R63 to Loxton. It is relatively diverse compared with other wards in the municipality.
The 2021 local government election: Elections tend to be close in this part of Kareeberg. The ANC picked up this ward by winning 59 more votes than the local Kareeberg Civic Movement (KCM). The margin was even closer on the PR ballot, where the ANC won by 31 votes.
The EFF would have focused much of its 2021 Northern Cape election campaign around Kimberley and the John Taolo Gaetsewe region, the parts of the province that are closer to the North-West border, and where Setswana would be more prominent than Afrikaans. Kareeberg was an outlier for the party. It won a ward in another part of Carnarvon and finished second in the municipality in 2021. It just lost out on second place to the KCM in this ward. In Kareeberg, Afrikaans is spoken more widely than Setswana.
Things went pear-shaped for the DA in this ward in 2021. It narrowly beat the ANC on the provincial ballot at Carnarvon High School in 2019 to get the most votes in the ward. The party lost a lot of votes to the KCM in 2021. It went from first to fourth place, while the EFF’s third-place finish was built on attracting a decent chunk of ANC voters. The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) took 8% of the vote here in 2021. It is giving this by-election a miss.
When it came to choosing a mayor here, the ANC lost control of the municipality, owing to an informal arrangement with the KCM and the DA, and the KCM and the EFF, whereby the DA and EFF used their votes to elect a KCM mayor and speaker. The ANC won five out of 11 seats in 2021 with the EFF, the KCM and the DA winning two seats each in the 11-seat council.
The by-election: The by-election was called after the ANC councillor resigned. An interesting dynamic in this race was the Patriotic Alliance (PA) tossing its hat into the ring. The party did not contest here last time around.
The DA won the ward from the ANC by ensuring that Freedom Front and Kareeberg Civic Movement (KCM) voters threw their weight behind its candidate. The DA moved from fourth place in 2021 in the ward to first place. Northern Cape by-election turnouts are relatively high but this one was especially high as the ANC, the EFF and the DA left nothing to chance. The ANC dispatched many provincial heavyweights to the town to ensure it retained the seat and cover up the recent by-election blemish in Phokwane.
The ANC matched its 2021 performance but was not able to lure back EFF or KCM voters in this ward. The EFF will be happy with third place. It was not a good outing for the PA which failed to make headway in Carnarvon. KCM has both the mayoral chain and the speaker’s chair. It will hope its voters in Carnarvon were motivated by strategy rather than their potential disappointment in the governance of the municipality.
The ANC’s impressive traditional blueprint of how to win Northern Cape elections and by-elections seems to be under threat. Premier Zamani Saul and his team need to go back to the drawing board and send a message to the opposition in the next by-election that the province will not be up for grabs in 2024.
The new council composition is ANC 4 (5) DA 3 (2) EFF 2 KCM 2. Total: 11.
Turnout 73% (50%). This is very encouraging.
Ward 13 (Mbuba) in uMvoti, Umzinyathi ANC 34% (43%) IFP 32% (22%) ABC 32% (31%) EFF 2% (1%)
The setting: Ward 13 is a relatively rural part of uMvoti, southeast of Greytown below the R74 regional road which links Greytown with Hermannsburg and ultimately KwaDukuza on the North Coast. Half of the voters in this ward are in Mbuba, with the balance in Sangweni and KwaZiba. The seat of uMvoti is in Greytown. The municipality also includes Kranskop. uMvoti is part of the Umzinyathi District which contains the other large towns of Dundee, Nqutu and Tugela Ferry.
The 2021 local government election: The ANC beat the Abantu Batho Congress (ABC) by 165 votes in Ward 13 in November. Three parties won voting districts in this ward. The ABC carried the Sangweni voting district, while the IFP finished first in KwaZiba (Zakhele Primary School district). The ANC won the ward by comfortable margins in the two Mbuba voting districts, and enjoyed a very good differential turnout in the smaller Mbuba Hall voting district in Mbuba. The ANC will believe that if it can carry Mbuba again and at least match turnout with Sangweni and KwaZiba, it will be able to retain this competitive ward.
Political aficionados glued to news outlets on the day of the election of the eThekwini mayor would have seen ABC’s party leader, PT Mavundla, emerge as the kingmaker in eThekwini and also walk away with the deputy mayorship of the metro. It must be remembered that the base of ABC support and activity is centred on uMvoti. Mavundla, a former ANC mayor of uMvoti, shocked the ruling party in a by-election in 2019 when he won a ward off the party in uMvoti for the National Freedom Party (NFP). He defected from the NFP soon after that and formed the ABC. He lost his seat in the by-election.
The ABC’s solid second-place finish in the ward in the local government election saw it not only take votes from the ANC but also from the IFP and the EFF. While Mavundla worked with the ANC in eThekwini, his party chose the IFP in uMvoti as the ANC lost power in the municipality after the local government elections.
The ANC won the most seats in uMvoti but did not win an outright majority. Its 10 seats were four short of the majority needed. The IFP (nine seats) and the ABC (seven) have a pretty stable coalition. The DA is also on the 27-member council with one seat. The ward distribution in the municipality is shared between the three main parties as the ANC won six wards, the IFP five and the ABC three.
The by-election: The reason for the by-election is tragic. Thembinkosi Lombo was assassinated in broad daylight, late in February 2022.
The ANC hung on for a most important by-election win, besting the IFP by 30 votes and the Abantu Batho Congress by 33. This three-horse race was a photo finish which could have gone any way.
The ANC lost ground in the two Mbuba voting districts. In the smaller Mbuba district, its percentage vote share declined from 73% to 49%, with the IFP growing from 5% to 38%. In the larger Mbuba voting district (Bangumuzi Primary), the ANC saw its vote share fall to 47% from 56% as the IFP went from 9% to 34%. The IFP’s growth was also off the back of the ABC which went backwards in Mbuba.
The ABC grew in the Sangweni district, coming close to 50% in the by-election, well up from the 33% it won in 2021. The ANC saw its vote share fall from 29% to 23%, while the IFP mirrored its 2021 showing.
KwaZiba was what denied the IFP a famous victory in uMvoti. The party lost this district to the ABC which grew from 33% to 47% while the IFP’s percentage vote share fell from 43% to 34%. The IFP was unable to replicate its gains in Mbuba and this was the key contributing factor to the ANC retaining the ward.
There was no clear trend in this ward as the results showed the IFP gaining in Mbuba but losing ground in KwaZiba. The ABC gained in Sangweni and KwaZiba but had a difficult day in Mbuba. The ANC lost ground everywhere but some of the losses were more muted.
Turnout 59% (57%). This is also most encouraging.
Ward 10 (Gamorwe Waterval B) in Dr JS Moroka, Nkangala: ANC 68% (66%) EFF 14% (9%) Independent-Mahlangu 14% AIPO 3% (2%)
The setting: Ward 10 straddles both sides of the R568 regional road linking KwaMhlanga with Limpopo. The main villages here are Gamorwe and Waterval B. The seat of the Dr JS Moroka Municipality is in Siyabuswa, the home base of Premier Soccer League club TS Galaxy. The municipality borders Limpopo and Gauteng and is part of the Nkangala district which includes towns such as Middelburg, Emalahleni (Witbank) and Delmas.
The 2021 local government election: The ANC had an easy win here in November, scooping two-thirds of the ward vote and 68% of the proportional ballot. The EFF finished well ahead of the chasing pack but was still far off the ANC’s pace. The African Independent People’s Organisation finished seventh on the ward ballot. The ANC overperformed in this ward relative to its performance in Dr JS Moroka, scoring 61% of the proportional vote. The EFF, by contrast, underperformed when comparing its result with the 17% of the proportional vote it won in the municipality.
The by-election: The reason for the by-election was the death of the previous councillor.
The next round of by-elections will be on 15 June when the ANC defends a safe seat in Mnquma (Butterworth) in the Eastern Cape. DM