Well, this round of by-elections wasn’t the most dazzling in recent memory, and compared to the average by-election, that’s saying a lot. All wards were retained by incumbents (the ANC and DA). There were a couple of scares, but it was mostly business as usual.
Here’s the summary table of the eight contested (and three uncontested) wards in Wednesday’s by-elections:
All 8 wards were retained by the incumbents (the ANC defended 6 wards, the DA 2). Most of the wards, including the uncontested ones, were safe for the incumbent parties: the wards were won with more than 70 per cent of the vote in the 2011 municipal elections, and retained with a similar margin on Wednesday.
There are a couple of points of interest. In KwaZulu-Natal. Ward 10 in Imbabazane was won by the ANC in 2011 with 51 per cent and retained with 54 per cent on Wednesday. In both elections the IFP and NFP split the opposition vote, but the runner-up position changed hands on Wednesday: the NFP ended third in 2011, behind the IFP, but nosed ahead on Wednesday.
The ANC has 12 of the 25 council seats in the municipality and governs in coalition with the NFP (7 seats). The IFP has 5 seats and the DA has 1.
Ward 1 of the Karoo Hoogland municipality, in the Northern Cape, is worth a mention. The municipality has 7 council seats (4 ward and 3 PR). The ANC has a plurality of seats (3 out of 7) but the municipality is run by a DA-COPE coalition (2 seats each).
The ANC won the ward with 55 per cent of the vote in 2011 (COPE 22 per cent, DA 17 per cent). The party retained the seat with 62 per cent of the vote (DA 22 per cent, COPE 12 per cent). Turnout was the highest of all the wards on the day, at 62 per cent.
With the opposition splitting the vote, the seat was relatively safe for the ANC, but the result is a firm endorsement for the party – and also a vote of no confidence in COPE.
Witzenberg, in the Western Cape, has been controlled by a DA-led coalition since the 2011 , elections. The coalition had to be reshuffled when the DA lost a ward to the ANC in a 2013 by-election. The DA defended Ward 7 on Wednesday, and the history behind the by-election is full of shenanigans. (Basically the expelled DA councilor tried to pull a Tlokwe on his erstwhile mayor by casting his lot with ANC councillors in a vote of no confidence.)
The DA won the ward with 52 per cent in 2011 to the ANC’s 33 per cent. On Wednesday the party could only muster 47 per cent of the vote, with the ANC increasing its share to 43 per cent. The municipality remains fraught (and vrot) with infighting and intrigue. This bad boy of a municipality can’t seem to keep out of the news – this by-election is not the end of things.
Overall, the ANC should be happier than the DA, although there are question marks for both parties. The DA is constantly having to defend Witzenberg at the polls and protect its fragile alliance. The ANC might pause to ask why it is losing ground (even if only a little bit in each ward) to independent candidates.