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ANC stumbles to victory in Eastern Cape despite UDM’s best poll showing of 2023

ANC stumbles to victory in Eastern Cape despite UDM’s best poll showing of 2023
Composite Photos: Gallo Images

The ANC retained its seat in Ward 23 in Mhlontlo, Eastern Cape after fending off a spirited challenge by the United Democratic Movement.

Ward 23 (Balasi Cokomfeni) Mhlontlo, OR Tambo: ANC 58% (86%) UDM 39% (1%) Isanco 2% (<1%) EFF 1% (3%)

The setting: This is a rural ward, northwest of Qumbu, the seat of Mhlontlo. The ward comprises numerous villages in the Balasi administrative area. The OR Tambo district is north of East London and includes Mthatha, Lusikisiki and Flagstaff. Mhlontlo is named after the former chief of the AmaMpondomise people. It is also the home municipality of former anti-apartheid activist Florence Matomela and Zozibini Tunzi, Miss Universe in 2019.

The 2021 local government elections: No other party reached double figures in this ward as the ANC won more than 85% of the vote. There was only one district where the party won less than 80% of the vote. Its result in Ward 23 was superior to that of Mhlontlo where it won 75%. The African Transformation Movement (ATM) came second in the ward with 9%. The ANC lost no seats in Mhlontlo in 2021, and retained its 40 seats in the 51-seat council. The United Democratic Movement (UDM) and the EFF won three seats each. 

The by-election: Ward councillor Mkhululi Khonza was shot dead while sitting in his vehicle between Qumbu and Balasi. This occurred on the same day an Eastern Cape horse owner and jockey were shot in the same area in a drive-by shooting. 

The ANC was joined on the ballot by the UDM, the EFF and Multi-Party Charter member, the Independent South African National Civic Organisation (Isanco). 

The ANC beat the UDM by 330 votes in the by-election. The UDM won the most vote-rich voting district in the ward, the area around Cokomfeni village. In 2021, the ANC won 84% support in the district with the UDM getting 3%. In the by-election, the UDM took 80% of the vote in the district, while the ANC fell to 18%. 

Percentage turnout in the by-election was highest in the Kanyalanga Junior Secondary School district, at 58%. The ANC won 96% of the vote in this district, beating the UDM by 300 votes and giving it sufficient buffer to retain the ward with a reduced but satisfactory margin. The UDM was a factor in six of the seven voting districts and ran the ANC close in three. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC, DA record solid wins all round, but EFF and Patriotic Alliance deliver scares in Limpopo and Swartland polls

This was the final Eastern Cape by-election of the year. It was also the one in which the UDM had its best 2023 showing. It will hope this is a harbinger of things to come for the party in the province in 2024. This result for the ANC is an outlier. The party has been emphatic in Eastern Cape by-elections in 2023, and the party will hope that this was a diversion from its dominant course in the province. 

Poll: 39% (48%)

The next by-election will be on 22 November when the ANC will defend a safe seat in Msunduzi, in the Imbali township next to Pietermaritzburg. DM


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