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Zuma’s MK party makes strong debut in KZN – IFP retains Vryheid ward, but ANC gains

Zuma’s MK party makes strong debut in KZN – IFP retains Vryheid ward, but ANC gains
IFP. (Photo: Mandla Langa) | ANC. (Photo: Leila Dougan) | MK party. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi) | EFF. (Gallo (Photo: Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

The IFP retained a ward in Vryheid in AbaQulusi, KwaZulu-Natal, beating the ANC which will be content with a strong second-place finish. Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe party had an impressive first by-election outing, winning just under one-fifth of the vote to finish third.

Ward 8 (Vryheid) AbaQulusi, Zululand in KwaZulu-Natal: IFP 47% (35%) ANC  31% (15%) MK 19%  OHM 2% (<1%) EFF 1% (5%)

The setting: This ward is in the centre of Vryheid, the seat of power in AbaQulusi. Its landmarks include the Lucas Meijer House Museum and the Vryheid Hills Nature Reserve. Vryheid used to be a coal-mining town but is today more dependent on farming and tourism. AbaQulusi includes parts of the Ithala Game Reserve. The municipality forms part of the broader Zululand district, which includes towns such as Ulundi, Nongoma and Paulpietersburg.

The 2021 local government elections: In 2016, Ward 8 was a real three-way battle as the DA edged the ANC and the IFP. Just 35 votes separated the DA from the ANC and there were fewer than 100 between the DA and the IFP. 

In 2021, The IFP beat the DA by 135 votes in another closely fought contest. The DA lost ground to the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) who finished fourth with 6% of the vote. An independent candidate also affected the DA with 4% of the vote. 

The ANC finished a distant third in the ward, losing support to the IFP and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). 

The IFP replaced the ANC as the largest party in AbaQulusi, winning 21 of the 45 seats. The ANC lost eight seats to finish on 14. The National Freedom Party (NFP) and the EFF also ate into the ANC’s support. The NFP finished third with four seats while the EFF won three. The DA with its two seats and the FF+ with one completed the seat allocation. The IFP had the support of the DA to ensure the IFP candidate was elected mayor. 

The by-election: The by-election was triggered by the resignation of the ward councillor. Due to the agreement between the IFP and the DA which states that the parties will not compete against each other in competitive seats, the DA sat out this contest. Fellow Multi-Party Charter member, the FF+ also opted out of the by-election. The IFP was hoping to draw on the support of the DA and the FF+ in this poll. Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party chose this by-election for its first foray into electoral politics. It was hoping to continue its momentum from the recent registration weekend. 

The IFP retained the ward by 169 votes, a wider gap between it and the second-placed party compared with 2021 and 2016, but it was not all plain sailing. 

The ANC won the two town voting districts, as DA, FF+ and independent voters decided to sit out this by-election. Only 13% of registered voters showed up at the Vryheid Racing Pigeon Club and a mere 7% came out in the Library Hall voting district. The ANC winning the voting district at the Vryheid Racing Pigeon Club will lead to some head-scratching at the IFP offices since the IFP won here in 2021, beating the DA in this district. The IFP voters in this district were largely absent in the by-election.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections 2024 Knowledge Base

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

The turnout was not subdued at the new housing area near the Sasko Bakery. Half of the registered voters were here as turnout all but matched the 2021 local government elections figures. The IFP won this district by 180 votes with 49% of the vote, down from the 61% it obtained in 2021. The ANC grew from 20% to 28% to finish second. 

The peculiarity of the result in this district is that the MK party came third with an impressive 21%, and that its credible debut was not off the back of the ANC, but rather the IFP, the EFF and the National Freedom Party (NFP). The EFF won 6% of the vote here in 2021. It fell to 1% in the by-election. The NFP also won 6% in the district in 2021 and was unable to contest the by-election.

The EFF will be concerned by its showing in this by-election and will hope to bounce back in Newcastle next week. 

The absence of the DA and the FF+ from the ballot, the hyper differential voter turnout, the IFP candidate’s lack of name recognition in the Sasko Bakery area district and the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal between South Africa and Nigeria are factors that could have affected the outcome of this by-election. 

In the final analysis, the IFP will be satisfied with the win but concerned with losing one voting district to the ANC, and shedding ground to the MK party. The ANC will be chuffed with winning two of the three districts and not losing support to the MK party, while the latter will be able to claim it is having an immediate impact on KwaZulu-Natal politics and that it will continue to do better as it sets up structures and further establishes itself in the province. 

Poll: 26% (44%)

Valentine’s Day will see a big round of by-elections, and the electoral debuts of Colleen Makhubele’s South African Rainbow Alliance (SARA) and Marius Fransman’s People’s Movement for Change (PMC). It will also be the MK party’s second by-election, in a ward in which it could fare even better than in its debut by-election. 

The DA will face off against the Patriotic Alliance (PA) in two Western Cape by-elections. PMC and GOOD will also hope to be a factor in the Elgin farms by-election in Theewaterskloof. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC shakes off challenge after independent candidate allies with EFF in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga

The IFP, ANC and MK will go head-to-head in uPhongolo, while the IFP, ANC and Team Sugar battle it out in Newcastle.

In the north of the country, the DA will defend a super safe seat in Ekurhuleni, while the ANC and the EFF will square off in Madibeng, North West. The ANC will also have to fend off a former ward councillor who is trying to win their seat back as an independent in Nala (Bothaville), Free State. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ian McGill says:

    In South Africa everybody wants to be a “leader” look no further than the number of parties. It seems every nonentity or kicked- out crook is the next president, remember “Cloudy”? We need Patriots! No wait, somebody’s got a party called that. As the great Billy Connelly said, “the mere desire to be a politician should automatically disqualify that person from being one”.

  • Rencia Cloete says:

    WHY is Zuma being allowed to continue with the MK moniker??

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      Because the ANC never thought to officially register the name as either a political party or a trademarked brand name. If they had, it would have been a legal slam dunk.

      But since they haven’t, it might become a bit more contentious if it ends up in court. It’s further complicated by the fact that the ANC failed to object to MK’s party registration when it was advertised for comment in Government Gazette No. 48770 of 9 June 2023. They had fourteen days to lodge an objection, but not a single objection was received by the IEC. Does no-one in the entire governing party read their own Gazette?

      I’m sure the ANC is mulling the possibility that a protracted and bruising legal battle that runs past the election date might be more to Zuma’s advantage than to their own, based on past experience with Zuma’s “victimhood” appeals (argumentum ad misericordiam). To date, they have sent a cease-and-desist letter, and threatened to go to court over rights to the name. But whether they will actually pull the trigger on that remains to be seen.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    One can not draw any reasonable conclusions from this election as there was only a 26% turnout of voters.

    • Catherine Royce says:

      So the DA and FF+ sat out this one – and so did their supporters? Don’t they believe in the MPC?

      • Paddy Ross says:

        This was a classic example of the MPC working. Only one MPC party contested the election but the other member parties of the coalition would have encouraged their supporters to vote for the member party of the coalition which was contesting the election. Result was the IFP beat the ANC. It is the result that matters.

  • patricial thabang says:

    rest to case

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    The proliferation of sneetches is a tragedy for our country.

  • Sandile Ntombela says:

    I hope that Mr Zuma and his cohort can read and see the red flags on their party that they so wished it will be a silver bullet ! These by elections should tell him and his Cohort how much his influence has dwindled they are really dreaming if they think they will have a significant impact on National Elections 🤔. But we wish them well 😉 in their endeavor trying yo be a better version of Cope.

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