The by-elections have passed without much incident. Five wards were defended successfully by the incumbent parties (ANC and DA). All five seats were retained with increased majorities. Voter turnouts numbers were unremarkable. The one thing which does confound and confuse me is how the Steve Tshwete ward increased its number of registered voters.
The table below summarises the results of the by-elections:
Both parties are likely to claim success at the polls although the ANC should be a bit happier with its defence of the Steve Tshwete ward. The party won the seat with just 52 per cent of the vote in 2011 and defended it strongly with 63 per cent of the vote.
So, that should be all the report, right? Weeell…not quite. It seemed weird to me that the ANC should end up with more votes in the Steve Tshwete ward than the party actually won in the 2011 elections: 928 ANC votes were recorded on Wednesday compared to the 607 votes the party received in 2011.
It’s one thing for a party to increase its percentage / relative share of the vote. It’s another for a party to increase its absolute number of votes, particularly when voter turnouts drop in by-elections – and the turnout did drop from 68 per cent in 2011 to 46 per cent on Wednesday.
Obviously, between 2011 and the present there will have been more voters registering in the ward, and there would have been registration drives leading up to the 2014 general elections. But there’s another source of registered voters: a whole voting district (VD) was tacked onto the ward between 2011 and 2014:
See the table below. In 2011 the ward only had two VDs but by the 2014 elections another VD had been added. Boundary redemarcations usually happen at the end of every five-year cycle, not within the cycle:
The ward’s population of registered voters increased by about 50 per cent with the addition of the new VD. The growth of registered voters between 2014 and the June by-election was between 1 per cent and 2 per cent in the other two VDs but increased by a stonking 20 per cent in the new VD.
This VD is also an ANC stronghold: 516 of its 689 valid votes were for the ANC. In fact, the VD could have won the ward for the ANC all by itself.
The ANC would have still won the ward without the VD, although the result would have been much closer. The party was also helped by the two independent candidates that ended up splitting the opposition vote. Of course, it’s easy to claim after the fact that the seat was always safe for the ANC.
If anyone can offer up an insight as to why the ward gained an extra VD and why voter registration grew by 20 per cent in that VD within a year, please let me know. A logical explanation for these questions would dispel my fears that something fishy went on here.
UPDATE: Anthony Benadie, DA leader in Mpumalanga and resident of Steve Tshwete, confirmed to me via Twitter that the DA has been raising objections with the IEC over this ward for some time.
The IEC claims that this VD was ‘mistakenly left out’ of the ward in 2011, but the DA claims that the VD appears as part of Ward 16 in all IDP documents and two residents living in the VD serve on the Ward 16 ward committee.
You can read Anthony’s Tweets here. I don’t think we’re finished with this story yet.