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George by-elections go ahead despite community conflict, claims of voter fraud, court losses and rain

George by-elections go ahead despite community conflict, claims of voter fraud, court losses and rain
DA supporters sing and dance in Borcherds, George, where by-elections are taking place. 19 July 2023. Photo: Shelley Christians

In George, inclement weather and court action did not stop voters during Wednesday’s by-elections in three wards across the Western Cape municipality. Throughout the campaigning process, the fight between the DA and Good over alleged voter fraud has caused tension in a once close-knit area that has been described as a ‘place where you can still borrow a bit of sugar’.

Tensions ran high in the Western Cape town of George on Wednesday, 19 July, as residents of three wards went to the polls to determine who would be their next ward councillors.

george by-elections

In Ward 20, which covers the suburb of Borcherds, Maxine Jantjies (28) spoke to Daily Maverick after she voted at the Heidedal Primary School voting station.

“Maybe my vote can bring a big change,” she said when asked why wanted to vote.

She said she longed for a councillor who could work with the community and who would address their complaints.

“So that if I come with a problem, they can be there to fix it, he or she needs to be able to stand up for us,” she said.

george by-elections

Maxine Jantjies after voting in the by-elections at Heidedal Primary School in Borcherds, George, on 19 July 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

The by-elections were held after three Good party ward councillors resigned in April. Two of the former councillors joined the DA, while the third councillor rejoined Good. All three stood to reclaim the wards they won in the 2021 municipal elections. Two of the candidates stood for the DA, while the other stood for Good once again.

But the mood in the three wards was on edge. At political party desks, party members floated suggestions of how many voters stopped at each desk and how many people had already voted during the day.

At one point, Daily Maverick was asked to move outside of one of the schools acting as a voting station, as voting officials thought political party members might assume we were trying to canvas for votes instead of reporting on the by-election. 

george by-elections

The Heidedal Primary School voting station during by-elections in Borcherds, George on 19 July 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Campaigning had been tense in the lead-up to the by-election after Good claimed that its political rival the DA had allegedly committed voter fraud.

Good approached the Electoral Court to postpone the by-election after it claimed that, in one instance, 188 people were registered to a single address, despite only two people living in the house. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Good party accuses DA of voter fraud and abuse of resources in hotly contested George by-elections

On Wednesday, the DA said the IEC dismissed Good’s claims of voter fraud, but Good said it would be taking legal advice on the dismissal. 

While the court action continued, political parties gathered in George across the three wards. Joining Good and the DA on the ballot papers were the ANC, Patriotic Alliance (PA), Plaaslike Besorgde Inwoners (PBI), EFF and the African Restoration Alliance (ARA). 

george by-elections

A busy street outside one of the voting stations in Borcherds, George during the by-elections. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

While it rained sporadically throughout the day, music blasted from cars and bakkies as political parties jostled to get voters’ attention. At several party tents, children were being fed. In one instance, children were shooed away by adults after they tried to get on to the back of a moving taxi carrying EFF supporters.

Several cars draped in political party colours had dropped off the elderly and physically disabled. While some voting stations were quiet, others were busy.

At several points in the day, there was tension at voting stations as supporters tried to jostle potential voters to their tables. Some residents were afraid to speak on the record to Daily Maverick, but claimed it was the infighting between the political parties that caused animosity between friends and families who supported different candidates. 

Darryl Coeries, the PBI’s candidate for Ward 20 (Borcherds) and a former rugby player, said there was no clinic in Borcherds, so elderly people often had to walk to the nearby suburb of Conville to access healthcare services. 

“It means if you go to the clinic at 6.30am, you walk out at 4pm,” he said. 

He pointed out that two of the candidates – Rosa Louw (current proportional representative councillor for Good) and Neville Louw (the DA candidate who was the previous Good ward councillor before he defected)  – could not make a difference while they were under the same party banner.

“You need to ask yourself a question – are they standing to help people because they could not do it in the past or are they interested in a salary?” 

george by-elections

A policeman at the Youth For Christ Kids Centre voting station during by-elections in Borcherds, George. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Coeries said during the campaign trail, the fights between the two big parties caused conflict in the community.

“The most heartsore of all is Good and the DA came and broke up families. They broke up friendships because people who canvass for Good and for the DA are angry at each other. 

“They can’t stand each other. Despite us having hardships in Borcherds, we’ve always been a unit. Now, there are many wounds that need to be healed after this process of voting because we need each other. In Borcherds, you still get people that borrow a bit of sugar, salt from each other,” he said. 

george by-elections

Darrell Coeries, PBI candidate in Borcherds, George. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

ANC Ward 20 candidate John Yoko told Daily Maverick a similar tale of the two parties causing fights among families. He said other problems in the ward included crime and the lack of dignity it carried.

“Old people are being raped, young people lose themselves in drugs,” he said. 

Yoko said if elected as councillor, the first thing he wanted to do was invite the community to a meeting to find out their immediate priorities.

“If the community says housing, then that is my first priority. Or employment, but with the community.”

He said whoever won the by-election must focus on the big issues, which he said were unemployment and job creation. 

george by-elections

The voting station for the by-elections at Heidedal Primary School in Borcherds, George. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Christo Alexander, the PA candidate, told Daily Maverick that because of his role as a pastor, he felt he could make a difference in the ward. The conflict between Good and the DA affected service delivery, he said.

He added: “Not that there was service delivery in the first place. We were given crumbs in Borcherds.”

Alexander said unemployment first needed to be addressed, then drug abuse.

“If young people have employment, they are off the streets,” he said. 

Good candidate Rosa Louw told Daily Maverick the previous councillor “knew what he was doing” while he planned his defection to the DA, which she claimed affected service delivery. She said the ward was getting attention now because of the by-election “but tomorrow they will be forgotten”.

george by-elections

Rosa Louw, Good party candidate in Borcherds, George. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

She wanted to focus on the ward and service delivery.

“The person who worked here, who was supposed to work here, is riding in a DA bakkie and is telling people Good did not do their work and didn’t provide him with resources,” she said. 

Louw added that if she were elected councillor, she would go knocking at the doors of the municipality to fix service delivery. 

Incumbent Louw, now campaigning under a DA banner, described Borcherds as a place with “lots of potential that needs to be developed with the right party at the lead then we can make sure we can bring Borcherds to a place we can see we rise”. 

Louw said with positive contributions from all stakeholders, there could be a “real change” in the community. 

When asked about the campaign sowing division in the community, Louw said: “I think that has to do with the politics of the day. That isn’t such a big community issue. At the end of the day, people can make a mark next to the party of their choice because that’s what many people fought and died for.

“I don’t think the community is divided; it has to do with politics of the day.” 

He identified unemployment, poverty and housing as the biggest problems in the ward. 

Borcherds resident Lena Hector (56) told Daily Maverick the person who wins the by-election in her ward must look at safety.

“I would like them to look at the gangsterism and safety and the underage children who are running in the streets. They are out in the streets.”

Hector told Daily Maverick she also wants the political parties to “give people better circumstances in the informal settlements where water is just running and people are sick”.

When asked about the immediate priority for the incoming councillor, Hector said: “I would say he or she should look at those in the informal settlements because it is cold, and it is raining, their houses are flooding. He or she needs to look at them first.”

george by-elections

A boy skates in Borcherds, George, on by-elections day. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

In the other two wards, New Dawn Park and Pacaltsdorp, tensions were also running high but music was blasting from speakers and cars. At one voting station, cars and taxis blocked the road as parties tried to lure voters into the small church.

People in party colours called people to come to their desks and check their voting status. Some predominantly younger-looking party members were telling people to vote for them while cars blasted music from every corner of the street.

george by-elections

The voting station at Vincent Pallotti Catholic Church in Pacaltsdorp, George. (Photo: Shelley Christians)


Join us on Thursday, July 20, from 9am – 11am SAST for a session on Ask Us Anything about … what by-election results signal for the 2024 general elections. You are welcome to send your questions in the meantime.
Update: The by-election results were as follows:

Ward 16 (New Dawn Park) George in Garden Route: DA 46% (25%) PA 22% (6%)  GOOD 15% (39%) PBI 15 (23%) ANC 1% (3%) EFF 1% (1%) ARA <1% (<1%)

Ward 20 (Borcherds) in George, Garden Route: PA 26% (1%) DA (Incumbent) 23% (20%) ANC 22% (23%) PBI 21% (23%) GOOD 6% (27%) EFF 2% (2%) ARA <1% (1%) 

Ward 27 (Pacaltsdorp) in George, Garden Route: DA 36% (30%) GOOD (Incumbent) 26% (36%) PBI 19% (25%) PA 18% (6%) EFF 2% (<1%) ARA <1% (<1%)

For the full report on all the by-elections this week, read our report by Wayne Sussman here: ANC weathers Mangaung challenge, PA makes inroads in George as IFP exerts dominance in KZN wards


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