Wednesday’s municipal by-elections had just enough incident and spectacle to hold the interest of the casual observer. The ANC lost another KwaZulu-Natal ward to the IFP and the DA came agonisingly close to winning back a Western Cape ward (and possibly the whole municipality) from the ANC.
Municipal by-elections were held on Wednesday in nine wards across the country (the ANC retained a tenth ward unopposed). The map below shows in which municipalities the by-elections were held, who was the incumbent party, and which parties contested the by-elections:
Including the uncontested ward, the ANC defended eight wards and the DA defended two. Most of the wards were safe, with the incumbent party winning over 80 per cent of the vote in the 2011 elections. There were two wards where the ANC would have felt pressure: Ward 5 in Ntambana was won by the party with just 57 per cent of the ward, and Ward 2 in Matzikama was won by the ANC in a 2012 by-election with just 53 per cent of the vote. Both wards ended up telling an interesting story.
The table below summarises the results of the by-elections. Note that the Matzikama ward was won by the DA in the 2011 elections, lost to the ANC in December 2012, and then retained by the ANC on Wednesday:
In the Eastern Cape, the ANC retained Ward 1 in Makana (Grahamstown). The party won the ward in 2011 with 86 per cent of the vote (DA 9 per cent, COPE 2 per cent) and retained the ward on Wednesday with 78 per cent of the vote to the DA’s 22 per cent.
In KwaZulu-Natal the ANC successfully defended Ward 12 in uMshwathi (Wartburg). The party won the ward with 93 per cent in 2011 (IFP 5 per cent) and retained it on Wednesday with 96 per cent (IFP 4 per cent).
The ANC lost another ward in the province, however: Ward 5 in Ntambana. The party had won the ward with 57 per cent (IFP 34 per cent, NFP 9 per cent) but could only claim 45 per cent on Wednesday. The IFP won the ward with 54 per cent of the vote (NFP 2 per cent).
The ANC/NFP coalition held 10 seats in the 16-seat council before the by-election, and this has been whittled down to 9, with the IFP now holding 7 seats. In theory, the IFP is only another by-election victory away from a hung council but the party probably won’t get a chance to challenge for more seats before next year’s elections.
In Limpopo, the ANC retained Ward 13 in Blouberg (Bochum/My Darling) in an uncontested by-election. The party won the ward in 2011 with 89 per cent (DA 5 per cent, COPE 4 per cent).
In Mpumalanga, the ANC successfully defended Ward 2 in Steve Tshwete (Middelburg). The party had won the ward with 95 per cent in 2011 (DA 4 per cent) and decreased its share of the vote to 91 per cent on Wednesday, with an independent candidate mopping up the rest of the vote.
In the North West, the ANC had a succcessful showing in Ward 9 of Moretele (Makapanstad). The party won the seat in 2011 with 89 per cent (DA 5 per cent) and retained it with 92 per cent on Wednesday (independent 8 per cent).
There were four by-elections in the Western Cape, with the DA successfully defending three seats and the ANC one. In Ward 2 of Matzikama (Vredendal) the ANC hung on to its seat by its bloody fingernails, edging out the DA by just three votes – 1 173 to 1 170.
The ANC had won the seat from the DA in a 2012 by-election, and, in coalition with two small parties, was able to completely shut the DA out of the municipality. The DA holds 6 of the 15 council seats and if it had won on Wednesday it might have been able to convince one or both of the smaller parties to form a new coalition with it. For now, the ANC has retained control of a municipality where the power balance is precarious.
In Ward 10 of Langeberg (Robertson) the ANC retained a seat that it had won with 83 per cent (independent 7 per cent, DA 5 per cent). The party increased its share to 85 per cent, and the EFF won 15 per cent.
This is a relatively successful foray for the EFF in the province but one shouldn’t read too much into the party’s success – in a two-horse by-election race it’s not clear whether opposition votes are an affirmation of the opposition party in question or just a protest vote against the incumbent.
The DA defended two wards in Knysna. In Ward 9 the party won 78 per cent in 2011 (COPE 13 per cent, ANC 7 per cent) and slipped to 69 per cent on Wednesday (ICOSA 17 per cent, COPE 11 per cent, ANC 4 per cent). In Ward 10 the party recorded an emphatic victory, increasing its share of the vote from 93 per cent in 2011 (ACDP 4 per cent, ANC 2 per cent) to over 99 per cent on Wednesday (ANC 1 per cent).
These by-elections were a mixed bag for the two big parties. The ANC rebuffed the DA in Matzikama and recorded slight increases in uMshwathi, Moretele and Langeberg, but lost an important ward in Ntambana while also slipping a bit in Makana and Steve Tshwete. The DA retained both of its wards but lost ground in Ward 9 of Knysna. The party will also curse its very narrow margin of defeat in Matzikama.
The IFP was the big winner on Wednesday, confounding commentators and coroners alike who keep prematurely announcing the party’s demise. The EFF will also feel it has some bragging rights after its good showing in Langeberg.