The Big Chill in Inkwanca

25 November 2014
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by Wayne Sussman

Inkwanca lies in the Eastern Cape, Chris Hani district, in the shadow of the Stormberg Mountains. This is the coldest part of the country, and former ANC councilors will be feeling the chill during Wednesday’s by-elections.In September, the municipality was placed under administration by the provincial government following political infighting and a disputed forensic report into corruption by the municipal leadership.

The council was dissolved and all 7 councilors (4 ward and 3 PR councilors) are being replaced. Voters will receive a PR ballot and a ward ballot.

Inkwanca local municipality, Chris Hani district

Inkwanca local municipality, Chris Hani district

Before the dissolution of the council, the ANC had 5 seats (4 ward, 1 PR), and the DA and COPE had a PR seat each. In the 2011 elections the ANC won Wards 1, 3 and 4 by big margins (with 86%, 78% and 88% of the vote respectively). Ward 2 was a shave of a closer kind: the ANC won with 52% to the DA’s 38% and COPE’s 10%.

The ANC, DA and COPE are joined in all four by-elections by the African Independent Congress (AIC)

The AIC, a party with a limited regional focus, did surprisingly well in the 2014 elections, winning three seats in the National Assembly. The popular theory is that many (if not most) of the votes came from ANC supporters who were confused by the proximity of the parties on the ballot and the similarity of their names.

An extra opposition party joining the fray is normally good news for the ANC, but the party will not want a repeat of the 2014 general elections. Hopefully its supporters will check their ballots more carefully this time.

The ANC has also been boosted by the fact that none of the expelled councilors are running as Independents. And that’s not for lack of trying – there have been attempts at reinstatement and even public protests.  The party will breathe a big sigh of relief that it does not need to go toe to toe with the expelled councilors. Reports suggest that the expelled councilors have adopted an ABANC (Anything But ANC) strategy.

The DA will dream of winning Ward 2, and a worst-case scenario for the ANC would see the party losing this seat and having its majority cut to just one seat in council. The ANC is more likely to increase its majority (with a second PR seat) than it is to lose the ward, but everything depends on voter turnout, particularly in the tightly-contested voting districts of Ward 2.

The ANC will retain control of the council, but the party will have to get the municipality back on its feet. The erstwhile mayor, Mr Mthandazo Qamngwana, did not leave council quietly.

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