Defend Truth

Updated: Jan 17, 2022 at 10:46PM

2021 Election Updates

The crisis of our times cannot be resolved simply by electing new ANC leaders – we need a new alignment of forces

Ilustrative image | Sources: Gallo Images / Daily Maverick / Felix Dlangamandla | Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle | EPA / Nic Bothma | Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi | Lehlomelo Toyane

By: Raymond Suttner

The decline of the ANC bears a relation to a broader deterioration in democratic life and respect for constitutionalism. It is important not to see the remedy as simply voting the ANC out of power but also entailing a broad alliance of forces, including popular forces and business, in defending and sustaining democratic life under the Constitution.

It has been clear for some time that the ANC is undergoing a crisis, which could affect its continued existence. It first became very clear in elections for local government in 2016 when the organisation lost control of three significant metros. This trend was partially bucked in the national elections of 2019 when the ANC retained a national majority, albeit just scraping back in a key province like Gauteng.

But the 2021 local government elections again confirmed the ANC’s decline, for the first time losing a majority on a national level.

It is important, however, to address the problem of the ANC’s current practices and existence within the context of the crisis of South African democracy. That is not purely a question of who is winning and losing seats, because the malgovernance that is behind these electoral losses has affected the quality of life of the majority of the country who remain oppressed by denial of basic needs that are constitutionally prescribed and subjected to constant violence and other state excesses.

The fate of the ANC and that of democratic life and constitutionalism are different, but there are also linkages between the two. The failure of the ANC to meet the aspirations of the majority has been accompanied by lack of confidence displayed in the electoral alternatives.

On the one hand, our concern needs to be not only with the fate of the organisation that led the liberation Struggle, not to rescue it at all costs nor to ensure that it goes into the dustbin of history. Through its own actions, it has put itself into a situation where it is alive in some senses but definitely dying, not only as an electoral force but as a moral force for change and an organisation that was once preoccupied with debating ideas advancing emancipatory goals.

The fate of democracy and constitutionalism in South Africa converges with the crisis of the ANC insofar as we restrict ourselves to the broader crisis of electoral democracy. The ANC is in a liminal state, half living and possibly en route to dying. The problem for wider society is that its ways of acting to preserve its power and continued existence are also undermining the value of democracy and constitutionalism.

It is important that we address this not only by focusing on finding an alternative political party to defeat the ANC in elections, but also look for other ways of securing democratic life and the empowering elements of the Constitution. How do we strengthen democracy and constitutionalism in various institutions that are important for realising the promise that many of us cherished after 1994?

It is human beings who occupy the institutions that safeguard and build (or destroy) democracy, and individuals, who through the organisations they inhabit comprise a body of people that can embody power or potential power to be used in more than one way. How do those human beings become organised in a manner that can strengthen support for emancipatory goals? Clearly, it means supporting or withholding support from one or other organisation or organisations and potentially embracing the cause of others.

“Others” need not be restricted to what exists now nor to political parties standing for Parliament or other institutions of representative democracy. Power can be manifested outside of electoral democracy, and it need not be a negation of the power of the vote, that was an important historical gain in South Africa.

We need to ask ourselves to what ends organisations should be directed in the light of the decline of the ANC and the failure of other organisations to present themselves as an adequate alternative for the people of South Africa.

Media collude in depoliticisation

The media are not helping to address this question, because the focus that we now have is on who will become the president and other office bearers of the ANC, in a sense reducing the political questions of the day to that which can be resolved by one or other personality.

And by doing this, there is a failure to address the problems of the political system and the ways of organising people in the period that lies ahead with a view to recovering the vitality of democratic life.

The media are colluding — despite the ANC having suffered a serious defeat — in presenting the outcome of the ANC internal elections and leadership structures as the only or main question to which we must look for the securing of our democratic future.

There is no question of the importance of the ANC. But the ANC is not democracy in South Africa. We should know that well enough, as the electorate indicated in their rejection of the ANC in the recent local government elections. This type of focus on the ANC is making it more difficult to remedy democratic failure and dysfunction. This is done by media reportage and analysis that focuses almost entirely on personalities in one or other “camp”, to whom they owe loyalty, and who may be on one or other “ticket” to the presidency of the ANC or may be won over to one or other “camp”.

It is media colluding in the depoliticisation of politics in its failure to expose the emptiness of the various alternatives, the absence of vision and actual ideological contestation, that once used to be the lifeblood of the ANC and its allies. Is it not important to probe what various candidates in the “race” stand for, if anything, beyond the vacuousness of identification with “Radical Economic Transformation” (RET)? It is significant that the word “elective conference” is used to refer to the 2022 ANC conference. That was not the terminology used in the 20th century and a little later, for elections were merely one part of broader conference proceedings where commissions debated strategies and tactics and policies, which were then not simply decorative but intended to be implemented — after heated and vigorous debate.

Our focus needs to be on what organisational forms can be developed to augment electoral politics. The vote was an important gain in the struggle for democracy, among other reasons because it refers to universal adult franchise in a country where black men and women were referred to as “boys” and “girls”. It being universal is also emancipatory in a history where rights were the prerogative of the few.

Augmenting the power of the vote

But it is important that we augment the vote or representative democracy with other sources of power which can influence the way in which the institutional life of democracy is played out. We need an alliance of forces that can bring to bear pressure that can ensure that institutional life is directed towards the bettering of the conditions of all the people of South Africa, whether through the judiciary, local government, national government, and a number of institutions which are part of our constitutional life.

We need a new alignment of forces and it may need a combination that has not always seen one another as kindred spirits. There needs to be an alliance of forces dedicated to revitalising democratic life and defending the Constitution. This grouping may overlap with some who are elected to Parliament and other institutions, but it can also act as a force outside of these institutions, bringing its power to bear on representatives to ensure that they remain on the democratic and constitutionalist track.

The United Democratic Front, UDF, cannot be reborn. It is a different time and conditions are very different and those who may be attracted to a new alliance may go beyond those drawn into the Struggle of the 1980s.

There are a very small number of popular organisations, but they need to be a core element of such an alliance, advancing their programmes which are in line with core elements of the democratic project.

The popular character of the labour movement has, in many respects, taken a knock insofar as key elements were in support of Jacob Zuma. It has also been weakened by job losses and general conditions of poverty and the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it needs to be an important part of such forces.

There are many professional bodies that have stood for constitutionalism and democracy and done their best to stand by and assist the poor and marginalised. These include the legal and medical professions, including nurses, social workers who have been at the coal face of addressing traumas experienced by the oppressed and other marginalised people, teachers, academics and others despite often disagreeing in their approaches. These are among the key resources in any rebuilding project.

Faith-based organisations and communities have historically played a crucial role in defending the poor and fighting for liberation with empowering teachings and sometimes occupying the most dangerous trenches together with freedom fighters. They need to be encouraged — in all their diversity — to enhance the liberatory vision that is now endangered.

I have previously referred to the importance of business, big and small, in all its diversity. Business played an important role in bringing down Jacob Zuma. But they also constitute a powerful force that has sustainable power and an interest in stability, constitutional rule and non-violence.

Apart from this, business is a key factor in addressing the scourge of unemployment. An input of former president Thabo Mbeki is reported in recent media, albeit directed at the ANC. He argues for a compact with business:

“If we take our economy from 1994 to date, 70% of new investment into our economy has come from the private sector and the rest from the public sector, and we’re talking about job creation and building new factories.

“What a social compact does is lock the private sector into a formal agreement so that they can’t make that investment as they wish, but as part of a national agreement. Business agreed to the social compact, so why aren’t we acting on that?”

None of these and other categories that I may not have mentioned is monolithic. But all who want to recover democracy and defend constitutionalism must be incorporated.

A final resource that we need to find a way of harnessing into the democratic recovery process is the people we see on a daily basis, acting out common acts of human kindness. In daily life, we all repeatedly witness acts of concern and solidarity displayed towards others who are in danger or need assistance. We see this in the streets and in neighbourhoods. And, of course, there are plenty of acts of aggression and selfishness that need to be strongly discouraged.

The kindness and solidarity have taken highly organised form in Gift of the Givers that has, in many respects, stepped in to fill gaps of government and the state, and is now being justifiably recognised.

Everything said about the way forward is necessarily tentative, despite the crisis that confronts us. This is merely a contribution towards what needs to be a broad discussion involving people from all walks of life and broad and diverse communities. DM

Raymond Suttner is an emeritus professor at the University of South Africa. He served lengthy periods in prison and house arrest for underground and public anti-apartheid activities. His writings cover contemporary politics, history, and social questions, especially issues relating to identities, gender and sexualities. He blogs at and his Twitter handle is @raymondsuttner. He is currently preparing memoirs covering his life experiences as well as analysing the political character of the periods through which he has lived.

This article first appeared on Creamer Media’s website:

Let the hustle begin: Many of South Africa’s metros are hung and unstable – how will it work?

Illustrative image: Mxolisi Kaunda was elected mayor at the eThekwini Municipality. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | Eugene Johnson was elected as the new executive mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay. (Photo: Supplied) | DA Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach) | Mxolisi Siyonzana was elected as the new mayor in Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw). | Xola Pakati to represent Buffalo City. (Photo: / Wikipedia)

By: Rebecca Davis and Wayne Sussman

Of the eight main metros in SA, only two can expect a relatively smooth political ride for the next five years. The other six are looking at a local government term marked by compromise, horse-trading, and probably a fair quantity of dirty tricks as the parties in those councils jostle for position.

If you are a resident of Buffalo City or Cape Town, you know who is governing your metro for the next five years: the ANC in the first case, and the DA in the second. As the dust settles from the post-election coalition wrangling, those are the only two main metros in South Africa where the two largest political parties can bask in the luxury of a healthy council majority. For the rest, the future is anything but certain.

In Mangaung, the ANC has taken power with a majority of a single seat. This means that there is no room for relaxing: a single by-election loss in the Free State capital would send the ANC scrambling for a coalition partner to maintain control.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, the ANC’s coalition has seen it secure exactly 50% of council seats – meaning that the party will need at least one opposition vote to pass its municipal budget.

This week it appeared that the unthinkable – a DA mayor – might happen in eThekwini (Durban) as the IFP turned its back on the ANC in dramatic circumstances. In the end, what enabled the ANC to claw a victory in eThekwini was the support of a historical backer of former president Jacob Zuma, former Greytown mayor PG Mavundla. Mavundla not only threw his Abantu Batho Congress’s two votes behind ANC mayoral candidate Mxolisi Kaunda, but also brought across most of the 14 small parties that have one seat each on the eThekwini council.

Kaunda ended up with the mayoral chain by just nine votes – so the ANC lives to fight another day in eThekwini, but is reduced to its weakest position ever there.

Most unstable of all are the political arrangements in both the City of Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni (East Rand), where the DA has been able to install mayors but no formal coalition agreements yet exist. That its mayoral candidates were able to win election owes much to the unexpected support of the EFF.

Yet as inexplicable as the EFF’s help might seem, it is in the Fighters’ political interests to throw their weight behind any moves that unseat the ANC from power. The path to growth for Julius Malema’s party is through a weaker ANC, even if that involves instructing its councillors to hold their noses and vote for DA mayors.

robben island eff
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

In Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg, the DA needs the votes of the EFF going forward to bring the stability necessary to govern effectively. DA federal council chair Helen Zille and leader John Steenhuisen have consistently said that they refuse to make the concessions to the EFF that former DA mayor Herman Mashaba found necessary in Johannesburg. Yet the support of the EFF will have to be secured in both metros to pass the budgets – and Malema is far too shrewd a political operator to freely give away his councillors’ votes.

actionSA Mashaba
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

The fact that the DA has ended up with mayoral chains in four of the eight main metros is an outcome that the party leadership should be thrilled with, given a performance in the local government elections that fell well short of its 2016 result. That the EFF can legitimately take credit for having installed a DA mayor in two of those four metros, however – Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni – will undoubtedly be the source of grit-your-teeth frustration for Zille and Steenhuisen, and virtually guarantees a baked-in instability in those councils.

DA federal council chair Helen Zille. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

When it comes to Tshwane, the DA may have an easier ride. If support from the Freedom Front Plus and ActionSA is consistent, the DA will not need EFF votes to govern.

On paper, a coalition between the DA, the Freedom Front Plus, ActionSA and smaller parties looks relatively stable: these entities have a fair amount of common cause, ideologically speaking. But the rough and tumble of the coalition negotiations have been especially bruising this year, and ActionSA president Herman Mashaba has made no secret of his unhappiness with the “arrogance” with which he accuses the DA of having conducted itself.

Indeed, ActionSA’s bronze medal performance in the Johannesburg elections made it a likely candidate to bag the mayoral chain in exchange for supporting the DA in Tshwane. But the DA’s refusal to countenance another Mashaba mayoral term – arguing that he in effect became an “EFF mayor” last time around – meant that ActionSA’s impressive electoral debut still did not translate into major spoils.

Based on Mashaba’s recent interviews, he will carry a grudge in this respect for some time. Add to this the historical beef that Mashaba has with Zille, given that her return to DA party structures was the cause of his resignation from the party, and it may take a while for hostility between the two parties to thaw – if it ever does.

In the hung metros where no formal coalitions exist, residents should expect governance to be a bumpy ride. If politicians absorbed any lesson from the local government polls, it should be that voters are increasingly intolerant of political chaos and its inevitable effects on service delivery.

Maturity – all too often a foreign concept in South African politics – will have to be the order of the day, together with a genuine sense of collaboration. The ANC’s new Nelson Mandela Bay mayor, Eugené Johnson, has already set a promising example in this regard by refusing to lay out plans for the five-year term before they have been thoroughly discussed with coalition partners.

In the past, the absence of formal coalitions in certain metros – Tshwane among them – has spelled something close to disaster. But this is by no means a universal precedent. In the Modimolle-Mookgophong municipality in Limpopo, the DA and the Freedom Front Plus coalition required the outside support of the EFF to govern – and did so with relative success for five years.

This Waterberg municipality has pockets of some of the most conservative and most radical voters in the country, but the opposition was able to put pragmatism ahead of ideology in this instance.

It’s an example that shows nothing is impossible in politics as long as egos are able to be set aside. A hopeful observer might suggest that a marriage of convenience – or even a no-strings-attached fling – between the DA and EFF could ultimately benefit residents, perhaps resulting in the tempering of the EFF’s most radical stances while ensuring the DA governs for the benefit of the poorest as well as wealthier citizens.

Bitter experience in recent years with high-profile coalition disasters – perhaps most notably in Nelson Mandela Bay – may make ordinary South Africans justifiably anxious of the coalition country that is now well and truly upon us. But it has to be hoped that the shock administered by the 1 November election results, particularly for the ANC, will galvanise politicians across the board into a renewed awareness that they exist to serve the people, and not the other way round. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

Ethics? Journalist Edwin Ntshidi appointed councillor after reporting on elections

Freelance journalist Edwin Ntshidi was sworn in as an ActionSA councillor for the City of Johannesburg on Monday, 22 November 2021. (Photo: Twitter / @Action4SA)

By: Greg Nicolson

Freelance journalist Edwin Ntshidi covered the elections for Eyewitness News while also standing as a PR candidate for ActionSA in Johannesburg. His violation of journalistic ethics will deepen mistrust between media houses and their audiences.

On 15 November, journalist Edwin Ntshidi reported in Eyewitness News (EWN) that the Freedom Front Plus, ActionSA, UDM, ACDP, IFP and Cope were due to hold a meeting in Sandton to negotiate coalition deals in hung municipalities.

What Ntshidi, a freelancer whose voice is well known to listeners of 702 and 947, didn’t report was that he was on ActionSA’s proportional representation (PR) list of candidates in the City of Johannesburg in the local government elections.

Ntshidi, who covered the local government elections extensively for EWN, was sworn in as a PR councillor for ActionSA in the City of Johannesburg on Monday, which appears to be a clear violation of the Press Code of Ethics and will likely further deepen the public’s mistrust in media.

According to a report from News24, EWN editor-in-chief Mahlatse Mahlase said Ntshidi served his notice on 7 November and the media house only recently learnt of his political ambitions.

News24 said it approached Ntshidi for comment at the Johannesburg council meeting on Monday, but after meeting with ActionSA leaders he declined to comment on whether his reporting during the elections was biased or whether he planned to continue working as a journalist.

Mahlase told News24 that EWN had rigorous policies in place to avoid slanted reporting.

“We lead a team of journalists who proudly and vigorously uphold the highest editorial standards and ethics. EWN has sound editorial policies in place to ensure unbiased reporting, and stories go through a rigorous subbing process that entails more than one person approving copy.

“It is even more critical that these steps are in place during an election, and we have several review meetings to ensure that our coverage is fair, balanced, and accurate.”

On Monday, EWN announced that Mahlase, a former News24 politics editor and SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) secretary-general, will leave the media house in 2022 to pursue a role outside news media and will be replaced by Newzroom Afrika politics editor Sbu Ngalwa.

Daily Maverick understands her resignation is unrelated to Ntshidi’s appointment as a councillor and she made her decision to leave long before Ntshidi’s shock political appointment.

A number of journalists have crossed into the political sphere and many leave the industry to work in government communications. Politics and media are closely related and while questions about conflicts of interest are often asked once a journalist takes a job with a political party or government, such transitions are usually managed to avoid an overlap that undermines the public’s trust in the media.

Ntshidi and ActionSA’s apparent flagrant disregard of ethics, however, appears unprecedented.

The Press Code states that media shall “not allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations to influence reporting, and avoid conflicts of interest as well as practices that could lead readers to doubt the media’s independence and professionalism” and may “not accept any benefit which may influence coverage”.

A cursory look at Ntshidi’s reporting for EWN in the elections does not show any obvious signs of bias towards ActionSA but how such conflicts of interest manifest are difficult to measure.

For example, as an ActionSA candidate who is hoping to earn an income with the party in the City of Johannesburg, could Ntshidi have excluded critical reporting on ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba and his stance on undocumented migrants?

An explainer on the Press Code by the press ombudsman notes on the provision on avoiding political conflicts of interest: “Each and every journalist has the right to hold political views and even to support a specific political party. However, they should not allow their political persuasions to slant their reporting. Surely, it is best not to be a member of any party.”

It continues: “Not only should journalists consider their own positions, they should also contemplate what impression their actions may create. That is why the Code adds that ‘arrangements or practices that could lead audiences to doubt the media’s independence and professionalism’ should be avoided.

“Perceptions are realities in the eyes of the beholder. So: Even if your conscience is clear, you still need to consider the effect (consequences) of your actions.”

Ntshidi clearly violated those provisions to the detriment of EWN and the media industry as a whole. It’s astonishing that ActionSA, which must have known about Ntshidi’s conflict of interest, allowed Ntshidi to stand as a councillor candidate while he was in a position that could at least create the perception of media bias towards the party.

For all Mashaba and ActionSA’s bluster about representing a public “gatvol” with politics, it either condoned Ntshidi’s conflict of interest or failed to properly vet its candidates, raising questions of the calibre of its members who hold decisive votes in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. DM

New broom: Geordin Hill-Lewis announces new mayoral committee with a mix of fresh and familiar faces

New Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis (centre) announces his mayoral committee in the City's Council Chambers on Monday 22 November 2021. He is flanked by Speaker of the Council- Felicity Purchase, and (right) Beverley van Reenen mayco Member for Energy. (Photo: Xabiso Mkhabela)

By: Suné Payne

The new Cape Town mayor has retained six councillors in their previous positions while incorporating new blood into the mix.

Announcing his mayoral committee on Monday 22 November, Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said his new team was chosen for “their combination of experience, skills, fresh energy and thinking and their commitment to making the City of Cape Town — a city we can all be proud of”. 

Hill-Lewis made the announcement in the City’s Council Chambers.

Last week, Hill-Lewis was elected mayor of the city, with former Springbok rugby player Eddie Andrews becoming his deputy, and long-standing councillor Felicity Purchase being elected Speaker of the City of Cape Town. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Sewage top of his mind as Hill-Lewis takes mayoral chain in Cape Town

Only six out of the previous councillors retained their positions in Hill-Lewis’ mayoral committee (mayco). 

  • Dr Zahid Badroodien is mayco member responsible for Water and Waste.
  • JP Smith remains mayco member for Safety and Security.
  • Councillor Rob Quintas retains the position of mayco member for Urban Mobility (responsible for roads and transport).
  • James Vos is named as mayco member for Economic Growth.
  • Grant Twigg is named mayco member for Urban Management.
  • Malusi Booi retains his previous position as mayco member for Human Settlements.
RETAINED: Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith. Photo: Leila Dougan

Some of the new names in the new mayor’s team include:

  • Theresa Uys who will be mayco member for Corporate Services;
  • Patricia van der Ross who will be responsible for Community Services and Health.
  • Siseko Mbandezi who will be mayco member for Finance, having previously chaired the oversight committee on finance in the city.
  • Beverley van Reenen will be mayco member for Energy.

Deputy mayor Andrews will be responsible for Spatial Planning and Environment.  

Hill-Lewis confirmed to journalists that the DA’s Federal Executive (FedEx) — the party’s highest governing structure — approved the nominations on Saturday morning. 

Xanthea Limberg
OUT: Former City of Cape Town mayco member Xanthea Limberg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Jaco Marais)

One of the notable names left off the list was Xanthea Limberg who was 3rd on the DA’s Proportional Representation List. Over the weekend, Weekend Argus reported she would be sidelined from Hill-Lewis’s mayoral committee. Up until last week, she was mayco member for Water and Waste but faced criticism for sewerage and environmental issues related to pollution in some of Cape Town’s water bodies. 

Limberg was not the only former mayco member who failed to make the cut — Phindile Maxiti (Energy), Ian Neilson (Finance), Marian Nieuwoudt (Spatial Planning and Environment) and Sharon Cottle (Corporate Services) were also omitted. 

OUT: Former mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato. (Photo: Gallo Images / Dereck Green)

Former mayor Dan Plato was also not named in Hill-Lewis’ team, adding further speculation to his future. Cape Argus reported that DA Western Cape leader Albert Fritz said a selection panel will decide who would fill vacant positions in the provincial and national legislatures. 

At the briefing, Hill-Lewis announced his team would be signing performance agreements as well as undergoing lifestyle audits. 

When asked about when performance agreements would be signed, Hill-Lewis said he had no specific time frame in mind but added, “I think certainly by the time we close for the end of the year we can have them all wrapped up”. 

The new mayor added that unless there were profound objections, the performance agreements of his team and himself could be made public, either via the city’s website or to the media. 

TEAM LINE UP:  Speaker Felicity Purchase, Human Settlements mayco member Malusi Booi, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and deputy mayor Eddie Andrews, at the city’s council chambers on Monday 22 November 2021. Photo:Xabiso Mkhabela

Hill-Lewis confirmed his mayco had their first meeting this morning, before the media briefing. 

In addition to the mayoral committee, Hill-Lewis wants to table a ‘Future Planning Team’ before the city council. Making the announcement, Hill-Lewis said the team would “bring together strategic planning, policy formation and research and will foster a culture of policy innovation that will help Cape Town reach its potential as one of the most innovative and exciting cities globally”. This team would report directly to him, Hill-Lewis said. DM. 

Cartoon Thursday with Rico

By: Rico

The ANC’s mid-term reckoning

Cyril Ramaphosa at the announcement of the final results for the 2021 local government elections at the Results Operation Centre, Tshwane, 4 November 2021. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

By: Wayne Sussman

It was a tough day for the ANC in this election cycle, with poor results in all but the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Will this trend continue to 2024, and what do the specific results in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape mean, as we move towards the next major election?

In 2016, President Jacob Zuma addressed the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) announcement of the final results of the 2016 local government elections. The mood in the room was sombre. The ANC had fallen below 50% in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The party had registered its worst performance yet in a major election, obtaining 54% of the vote. Many of the party faithful must have seen this as a temporary aberration. This was an electoral wrong that could surely be fixed. The party had a sharp decline again in 2019 in the national elections. It had fallen to below 60% for the first time. This was despite the fact that it was were now led by Cyril Ramaphosa. 

The ANC would have fancied its chances, at the start of 2021, of winning an outright majority in places like Ekurhuleni. The 2019 results were also positive in Limpopo, and that the party was on track to win outright majorities in Thabazimbi and Modimolle-Mookgophong. This year, the ANC also kissed and made up with the South African Communist Party (SACP) in Metsimaholo (Sasolburg).

When the results were tallied there was only one municipality in South Africa where the ANC won an outright majority in a municipality where it won less than 50% of the seats in 2016. This was the geographically big, but demographically tiny Ubuntu (Victoria West) Municipality in the Northern Cape.

Mpumalanga: A blemish on a proud record

History was made in this year’s local government elections when the ANC fell below 50% for the first time in a municipality in Mpumalanga. To make matters worse, it happened three times. Deputy President Mabuza’s home province’s record of never having to enter coalition talks in Mpumalanga was shattered as the party suffered setbacks in Steve Tshwete (Middelburg), Govan Mbeki (Secunda) and Lekwa (Standerton). The ANC lost ground to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), local parties and the Democratic Alliance (DA) in these three municipalities. 

ANC 2021 elections Mpumalanga
History was made when the ANC fell below 50% for the first time in a municipality in Mpumalanga. To make matters worse, it happened three times. (Photo: Jaco Marais / Netwerk24 Nuus / Gallo)

Even in Bushbuckridge, where a prominent local party, the Better Residents Association (BRA) imploded, the ANC lost four seats. In Bushbuckridge by-elections leading up to the elections, the ANC was winning wards previously held by BRA by landslides. That momentum did not carry to the local government elections. In Mbombela, the ANC lost 10 seats. Mbombela was the least competitive provincial capital. The ANC was rock solid in the Lowveld, but that also came undone in this election. 

Gauteng: Urban unhappiness

In 2019, the ANC crept over the 50% mark to retain its outright majority in Gauteng. The results in Ekurhuleni rescued the party from serious trouble. The ANC fell below 40% in all three Gauteng metros in this election. The party lost further ground in Mogale City (Krugersdorp) and lost its outright majority in Rand West City (Randfontein), Lesedi (Heidelberg), Emfuleni (Vereeniging) and Merafong (Carletonville). 

While the ANC has a path to retaining power in all the municipalities it led before the elections, the fact that it either needs coalition partners where it ruled outright before, or needs additional coalition partners where it governed in coalition previously, will certainly unnerve the party. Losses were most pronounced in Emfuleni and Johannesburg, where it lost more than a quarter of its councillors. Even then, most loyal black, green and gold flavoured Kool-Aid drinkers analysing the Gauteng results will know that a coalition is on the cards for 2024 in Gauteng. 

Free State

In 2016, the ANC got less than 50% in one Free State municipality, Metsimaholo (Sasolburg). This grew to four municipalities in the 2021 election as the ANC shed support in Maluti-a-Phofung (Phuthaditjhaba), Moqhaka (Kroonstad), Nala (Bothaville) and Metsimaholo. While the ANC is likely to hang on to power in Nala and Moqhaka, these results are anything but ideal. In Maluti-a-Phofung, it is likely to be sitting on the opposition benches as the second-largest party there — the Maluti-a-Phofung (MAP) 16 Civic Movement has a range of options to form a government there. 

In Metsimaholo, the ANC will need to do a deal with the EFF to return to government there. In Mangaung, the ANC eked over the line, winning 51/100 seats. The party was lucky that no compelling local offer emerged in the provincial capital. The Free State was very reliable for the ANC over election time. When one tallies the provincial results for the recent local government elections, the party won just north of 50% of the vote. 

The party will now need to invest additional resources here for 2024. The one caveat is that the ANC was hurt by local parties in Nala, Maluti-a-Phofung and Moqhaka. It also lost votes to local parties in places like Setsoto (Ficksburg). These local parties might choose to stay in their local government lane and will not be on the ballot in 2024. The ANC will believe it can win back many of these voters.

Northern Cape

Every election cycle, the opposition get excited about the Northern Cape. Every election cycle, the ANC breaks the oppositions’ hearts. The party has perfected the campaign in this sparsely populated province. In 2016, the ANC lost outright majorities in three municipalities — Nama Khoi (Springbok), Kgatelopele (Danielskuil) and Ubuntu (Victoria West).

The ANC went into this election in government in every single municipality in the province as it had coalitions in place in the three municipalities where it was short of outright control.

This time, the ANC finds itself needing coalition partners in many more municipalities. Nama Khoi and Kgatelopele are back on the list. They are joined by Hantam (Calvinia), Gamagara (Kathu), Siyancuma (Douglas), Thembelihle (Hopetown), Kareeberg (Carnarvon) and Siyathemba (Prieska) and Karoo Hoogland (Sutherland). 

The ANC was hurt in these municipalities by a range of factors including local parties, independents, the Patriotic Alliance and in some instances the DA and EFF. In Sol Plaatje (Kimberley), the party has a slender majority of one as it just held on in the election. The party’s almost perfect winning formula to eke out election win after election win in this large province was jinxed this time round. Similarly to the Free State, the ANC will know that many of these local parties and independents will not be on the ballot in 2024, but the party goes into the 2024 election visibly shaken. 

North West

The ANC again fell short in Rustenburg as a local party upset the applecart this time round. As per 2016, the party will need to find two more seats to return to power in this important municipality on the platinum belt. The ANC will be knocking on the Patriotic Alliance’s door in Potchefstroom to keep control of JB Marks Municipality and will be calling up the provincial party Forum 4 Service Delivery (F4SD) to keep control of Lekwa-Teemane (Christiana). 

The ANC is not in danger here in 2024, but it does risk returning with fewer members of the provincial legislature. It also knows that the EFF is battling to build on its initial promise in the North West. 


Much of the ANC and Jacob Zuma’s gains in this province were undone in this election. The IFP, EFF, parties with provincial aspirations, local parties and the DA all damaged the ANC in this election. 

Two standout results are Newcastle and uMhlathuze (Richards Bay). The Newcastle result is most indicative of the woes which befell the ANC in this election. The party lost 18 of its 40 seats while falling from 61% to 31%. The bulk of these seats went to the IFP, a big handful went to a local party called Team Sugar, and the EFF also bagged a few in this industrial town

In uMhlathuze, the party lost 16 of its 43 seats, with the IFP being the main beneficiary here. Large swathes of Northern KwaZulu-Natal returned to the IFP in this election. In eDumbe (Paulpietersburg), the National Freedom Party (NFP) was the main beneficiary of the ANC’s inability to get its voters out. 

In 2016, President Jacob Zuma addressed the Independent Electoral Commission’s announcement of the final results of the 2016 local government elections. The mood in the room was sombre. The ANC had fallen below 50% in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Nelson Mandela Bay. The party registered its worst performance yet in a major election, obtaining 54% of the vote. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Jacob Zuma’s great gift to the ANC was the way he turned southern KwaZulu-Natal and the Midlands into an ANC heartland. In the provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg, Msunduzi, the ANC lost 13 seats, needing to find one seat to keep control. The ANC went into this election in Msunduzi with much breathing room. It is now dependent on a coalition partner to keep governing here.

In neighbouring uMngeni (Howick), the DA had a famous victory, winning the municipality off the ANC. In southern KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC lost its outright majorities in Umdoni (Scottburgh) and uMuziwabantu (Harding) losing ground here to the EFF, IFP and the DA. 

In eThekwini, the ANC lost more than – 20% of its seats and finds itself looking for partners to keep control there. It is a dramatic fall for the ANC in the metro. The ANC ended up with 41% of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal. The party will need to go back to the drawing board fast here, as there is a strong chance that it could lose its outright majority in the province in 2024.

Western Cape

The ANC might find itself in coalitions governing more municipalities here than it did before the elections, but the party lost ground in many of the major population areas in the Western Cape, including Cape Town, Drakenstein (Paarl), George and Breede Valley (Worcester). It remained constant in Stellenbosch. The party has a long way back to have any chance of replacing the DA in Leeuwenhof. 

Eastern Cape

The ANC withstood spirited challenges from the DA in the western part of the Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay, and the EFF in the OR Tambo and Chris Hani regions. The ANC has a clearer path to government in Nelson Mandela Bay than the DA. The party lost outright control of Kou-Kamma (Kareedouw) and Dr Beyers Naudé (Graaff-Reinet), but is likely to be returned there because of its coalition options.

The rest of the province was a sea of green. Buffalo City was an outlier when considering the ANC’s urban woes. The party grew there and consolidated its control in East London. The Eastern Cape replaced Mpumalanga as the second-most secure province in the country after this election. With a reasonable chance of expelling the DA from the mayoral office in Gqeberha City Hall, this was an exceedingly good election for the ANC in the Eastern Cape. The party activists there will wish that 2024 would come sooner rather than later.


The ANC all but mirrored its 2016 result in the recent local government election. It was a percent shy of that mark. While a plethora of small parties made dents in the massive ANC majority, the EFF and DA lost considerably more ground. The ANC racked up impressive results across the length and breadth of the province, and while it fell just shy of reclaiming Modimolle-Mookgophong with an outright majority, the party will see a path to regaining it. In Thabazimbi, again, it fell just short, but its chances here of taking over are much better than in 2016. More importantly, when considering the road to 2024, the ANC had an increased vote share in three of the four main population centres in Limpopo — Polokwane, Makhado and Thulamela (Thohoyandou). In Tubatse, it mirrored their 2016 result, while the EFF and DA emerged worse off.

It was not all doom and gloom for the ANC. The party’s support was mostly rock solid in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. These two provinces were the gold standard for the ANC in this difficult election. The ANC’s rural lock on the hearts and minds of voters was the strongest here. When reflecting on the 2021 results, the ANC will want to look carefully at the Eastern Cape and Limpopo manuals. The party will also spend some time in Buffalo City, working out what it did right there as opposed to places like Ekurhuleni and eThekwini.

The ANC also knows that the local parties are less likely to be a factor in 2024. It will also believe that ANC voters will do what they always do in a national election and that is to show up and vote. What will keep Luthuli House up at night is that we have had two elections in succession (2019 and 2021) with record low turnouts. While turnout will be higher in 2024 than in 2021, fewer reliable ANC voters are turning out to vote. The party will hope that it has bottomed out in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape and that the only way is up. 

However, as that air of invincibility continues to be rolled back, voters might feel that they can continue to stay away or put their mark elsewhere. DM

The DA: Better or worse than expected?

DA supporters at a campaign leading up to the closing rally in Umngeni municipality in Howick, attended by party leaders John Steenhuisen, KZN leader Francois Rodgers, national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube, KZN chairperson Dean Macpherson and mayoral candidate Chris Pappas. (Photo:Mandla Langa)

By: Wayne Sussman

Can the DA galvanise its elected representatives and get them to use the next period of our politics to make a positive difference to Parliament, provincial legislatures and councils, which ultimately resonates with voters — or is the party like the current ANC — a party in a slow, but consistent decline?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) won just shy of 27% of the local government vote in 2016. The party had mayors in four of the eight metros. The DA was very different from the one led by Tony Leon in its formative years when it seemed destined to be a reliable and effective opposition, and where its rule would not extend beyond the Western Cape.

The DA getting just shy of the 27% mark in 2016 meant that it was now large enough to be blessed with its Cope moment. Three high-profile leaders quit the party and started their own organisations. Patricia de Lille started Good, Mmusi Maimane founded the One South Africa movement and Herman Mashaba formed ActionSA. 

It was highly improbable that the party would match its 2016 performance, but its 22% share of the vote on 1 November 2021 was well shy of its 2011 result, when it won 24% of the vote. The party ousted Mmusi Maimane after its decline in 2019. If this is the precedent, will the same fate befall current party leader John Steenhuisen? There are some differences as this was his first election as a leader and he stepped in when the party was nosediving. So while the axe might not fall, Steenhuisen will have to think long and hard on whether he is the best person to lead the party into the 2024 elections. 

Gauteng: Magnificent Midvaal and a mauling in the metros

Gauteng has three metros and six local municipalities. Midvaal  (Meyerton) was the only municipality that was not hung after this election. Voters broke again for the DA as the party won two additional seats and increased its majority in this relatively small municipality in southern Gauteng.

There was also a Midvaal effect in neighbouring Emfuleni (Vereeniging), where the DA increased its seats from 21 to 24 and closed the gap between it and the ANC to 14 seats, compared with the 30 seats it had previously been. Despite losing ground to the Freedom Front Plus in the suburbs, the party managed to increase its support in townships such as Evaton and Sebokeng. Its advances in the south did not replicate itself in the metros. 

In Johannesburg, the party lost more than a quarter of its seats, ending up with 71 after going into the election with 97. ActionSA was the main cause of this crash where its message caught on in the suburbs, and Herman Mashaba’s party also won over some of the DA voters in the townships.

The DA continued to lose coloured support to Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance. It also lost some Muslim support to Al-Jama-ah and Afrikaner support to the Freedom Front Plus. In Ekurhuleni, the DA lost 11 seats, ending on 65. Here the party lost support to ActionSA, the Freedom Front Plus and the PA. The Freedom Front Plus had a bigger impact on the DA in Ekurhuleni than it did in Johannesburg. 

The result in Tshwane was strange. The DA lost more than a quarter of its seats, bagging 69, after going into the election with 93. The ANC finished ahead of the DA after losing 14 seats, ending up with 75. It regained the first spot it lost in 2016. Here the DA was hurt in almost equal measure by the Freedom Front Plus and ActionSA. Despite this woeful result for the DA, the party has a much clearer path to a stable coalition this time around.

The party is unlikely to continue being held hostage by the EFF as it can form a coalition with ActionSA, Freedom Front Plus, the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and Cope. The party would have more seats than all the other coalition partners combined and would have a legitimate claim to the mayoral chain. The DA leading a stable coalition could help it arrest its decline in Tshwane and use both Tshwane and Midvaal as potential models of DA excellence in 2024.

Western Cape: The curious case of Cape Agulhas

The DA’s trump card in this election was the Auditor-General’s report. The loss of its majority in Cape Agulhas was emblematic of the DA’s woes in this election.

The party’s three biggest drawbacks were the above-mentioned ActionSA, Freedom Front Plus and also local parties.

In Cape Agulhas, the Freedom Front Plus won a seat and a local party gained an additional seat. The DA lost its outright majority in one of its flagship municipalities. The party lost ground in Cape Town, but was still well ahead of all the other parties.

The DA lost small bits of support to parties like Good, the Cape Coloured Congress, the Freedom Front Plus and the ACDP. Having said that, it has in excess of 90 seats more in the Western Cape than its closest challenger — the fading ANC.

In George and Drakenstein (Paarl), the party lost support to Good, the Freedom Front Plus and local parties. The DA will be more vulnerable on the provincial ballot here in 2019 and while the ANC is in continual decline in the Western Cape, and no single party has emerged as the likely successor to the DA in the province, it will have to reduce the loss of voters to Good, Freedom Front Plus, the PA, the ACDP and so on.

Mayors like Geordin Hill-Lewis (Cape Town), Gesie van Deventer (Stellenbosch), Dirk Kotze (Mossel Bay) and Grant Riddles (Hessequa) are some of the people critical to the DA’s efforts to consolidate support over the next five years. 

KwaZulu-Natal: The Midlands manna

DA 2021 local elections
DA leaders take the stage in dance as they close their rally in uMngeni, KwaZulu-Natal. (Photo: Mandla Langa)

This was a tough election for John Steenhuisen. A real bright spot was the party’s historic victory in uMngeni (Howick) where the party won an outright majority. The election of 31-year-old Christopher Pappas generated much goodwill for him and the party.

This municipality will be vital for the DA as it tries to show voters the difference between an ANC administration, an Inkatha Freedom Party administration and a DA administration. The DA was also the party of choice among Indian voters. The party lost slight ground in eThekwini and Newcastle, but increased its support in Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg). KwaZulu-Natal was one of three provinces in which the party registered growth between 2014 and 2019, and it will hope that it keeps ActionSA at bay here and continues to grow.

Eastern Cape: It went mostly south

Helen Zille all but relocated to Gqeberha. The party threw everything but the kitchen sink at Nelson Mandela Bay and came up well short of winning an outright majority. The DA lost nine seats in this coastal metro, finishing slightly ahead of the ANC but accruing the same number of seats as the ANC.

To rub salt in the wounds of the DA, the ANC has more options in forming a coalition to win back control. This was devastating for the DA. What made matters worse in Nelson Mandela Bay was that some of the seats lost went to parties that are more likely to work with the ANC than the DA.

The DA’s turnout differential advantage was not as pronounced as in 2016. This will also worry the party as the overwhelming bulk of DA voters is in this metro. If DA voters are no longer energised here, it is a concerning sign for the future.

The party held on to Kouga (Jeffreys Bay), a flagship municipality for the DA, but fell short in Kou-Kamma (Kareedouw) where it lost seats to the Freedom Front Plus and PA. In Beyers Naude (Graaff-Reinet), both the DA and ANC lost three seats each, and while the ANC lost its outright majority, it still has a better path to forming a government there.

The DA would have hoped for a blue wave to spread from Nelson Mandela to Kouga and encompass Graaff-Reinet, Kareedouw, even Cradock. The party largely failed in this regard. In the province’s other metro, Buffalo City, the DA remained the official opposition, but lost four of its 24 seats in the local government election. 

Central South Africa: Free State, Northern Cape and North West

In the Free State, the party mostly held its own, but was not able to exhibit significant growth. Where losses occurred it tended to be to the benefit of the Freedom Front Plus. In the Northern Cape, the party lost support to the Freedom Front Plus, PA and local parties.

In by-elections after the 2019 national elections, the Freedom Front Plus just needed to show up in North West DA wards to walk away with the prize. While the DA lost ground in the 2021 local government elections in JB Marks (Potchefstroom), Rustenburg and Madibeng (Brits) it was not as pronounced as what had occurred in those post-2019 by-elections.

While the DA continued to lose voters to the Freedom Front Plus in this province, it was not as severe as the party would have anticipated.

In the Northern Cape, the DA lost support in places such as Kimberley and Springbok to the Freedom Front Plus, the PA and local parties. The Northern Cape and Free State were two of the three provinces where the DA’s vote share had risen in 2019.

Northern Exposure

Limpopo was the party’s weakest province in 2019. Here, the DA was not just affected by the Freedom Front Plus, but also by not turning out DA voters. The DA was unable to hurt the ANC in a province where South Africa’s largest party is resolute. It was better in Mpumalanga, where the party went up to 17 seats from 12 in Govan Mbeki (Secunda). It also either held firm or lost slightly in places such as Mbombela, Middelburg (Steve Tshwete) and Emalahleni. 


ActionSA rattled the DA in the three Gauteng metros and the Freedom Front Plus, PA and local parties took bite-sized chunks out of the DA’s 2016 voter base. The party is in a precarious position on the road to 2024.

Is the DA in a downward spiral in which it will be overtaken by parties that are perceived to better resemble the 2016 version of the DA? And/or will the party continue to lose voters who see it as trying to represent too many groups, rather than properly representing its specific interests?

How does the party capture the imagination of voters again after two difficult elections for the party?

While the odds are stacked against the DA, for the next two-and-a-half years it is still the second-biggest party by a long way.

It has far more MPs and members of provincial legislatures than the EFF or the Freedom Front Plus. It has many more councillors than all its rivals bar the ANC. It will have fewer mayors between now and the national and provincial elections than it did before 1 November, but at least those mayors are likely to be in more secure coalitions and have a better chance of performing.

Can the DA galvanise its elected representatives and get them to use the next period of our politics to make a positive difference to Parliament, provincial legislatures and councils, which ultimately resonates with voters — or is the party like the current ANC — a party in a slow, but consistent decline? DM